The leader of the Iowa Republican Party wants to make it as difficult as possible for national Democrats to dethrone his state from its early spot in the presidential primary season, even if it means moving the state’s caucuses up several months.
Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, who also chairs the national GOP committee that oversees the presidency’s schedule, wants both parties in his state to hold their caucuses on the same day, though there’s no rule dictating this .
The National Democrats are pursuing an overhaul of their primary schedule, including the deletion of Iowa amid complaints that it is not racially or ethnically diverse and has turned red so it’s not worth the early investment.
But if another state should move in Iowa’s place for the Democrats, Kaufmann said he’ll make sure he jumps ahead so Iowa’s Republican faction comes first.
“These are the Democrats pulling this crap, and I’m telling you right now, they don’t want to play chicken with me. This is pure, progressive power politics,” Kaufmann told NBC News on Friday. Kaufmann’s position could further complicate the overall plan, since New Hampshire has a law on its books that requires it to hold its primary directly after the Iowa caucuses.
“If for some reason California and New York dictate policy for the entire DNC and they give Iowa and the Midwest the middle finger — if that happens, we’ll be first,” Kaufmann said. “I’ll move this thing after Halloween if need be.”
The caucuses are not usually scheduled until January or early February of the same year as the presidential race.
Kaufmann also leaned into President Biden’s Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, a former presidential candidate and former Iowa governor, and said he and other Democratic leaders weren’t doing enough to keep Iowa first in line. Vilsack did not respond to a request for comment. Kaufmann argued that it would be detrimental to the entire system if the Democrats pulled out of Iowa as the nation’s first caucus, since the two parties usually agree to hold their caucuses on the same day.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn noted that Republicans would still be campaigning early in Iowa even if Democrats seated the state later and to test its messages to rural voters, putting Democrats at a disadvantage with that constituency if they leave the smaller state.
“We cannot allow our presidential campaigns to be decided solely by campaigns that can only afford television advertising, or by corporate advocacy groups that have the funds to pay for their candidate to have a presence in larger media markets,” he said Wilburn. “We think we need to have small rural states like Iowa in the mix.”
The discussion comes after Democrats scrapped the old calendar and opened up the process to allow all states to apply as early contenders. This old system began with the Iowa caucuses and then progressed to the New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina primary elections.
These early positions are valued as they create an economic boost in states awash with advertising money and local organizations.
Dozens of states have now applied for one of the first state positions. That includes all of the states that previously went early while Nevada seeks to replace New Hampshire as the nation’s first area code. Both Minnesota and Michigan are looking to move to a Midwest slot should Iowa drop out of the early rotation.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee is scheduled to meet in Washington in early December to discuss the schedule for the presidential primary.