Washington (CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told the Nevada Republican Party Thursday he supported some state activists' efforts to move its caucus date to Feb. 4th - a change that would end a bitter clash between Nevada and New Hampshire over nominating calendar dates.
In a letter to the chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party, Amy Tarkanian, the RNC chairman said a February caucus would still give the state a prominent place in the nomination calendar, would avoid any sanctions imposed by the party for scheduling a contest too early and said the later date would be in the best interest of the party and the nation.
"In talking with you while in Las Vegas this week, I realize the groundswell of support from the many activists we spoke with for moving your caucuses to February 4th, and I will wholeheartedly support such a move," Priebus said in the letter.
CNN reported on Wednesday the Nevada Republican Party's central committee would consider the date change when it meets on Saturday and that Priebus, who met with key Nevada Republicans while in Nevada this week, had indicated his support privately for the move to February.
After Florida and South Carolina moved up their contests, Nevada announced it would schedule its caucus on Jan. 14th in order to have prominence. That move set off a firestorm. New Hampshire's Secretary of State William Gardner saying it complicated the scheduling of his state's primary because state law dictated there must be seven days between "similar" contests. He said he might be forced to schedule the New Hampshire primary in early or mid-December.
With Iowa's caucuses set for Jan. 3rd and South Carolina's primary scheduled for Jan. 17th there was no date for New Hampshire to go in order to hold its contest in early or mid January and meet that requirement and be the first in the nation primary which is its key priority.
Following Nevada's move several GOP candidates vowed to boycott campaigning in the state. Some activists started urging the state to re-consider its date.
"A February 4th caucus date will eliminate the uncertainty caused by Florida's actions and the posturing of New Hampshire's secretary of state, restore order to the primary calendar and benefit Nevada in multiple ways. There are several reasons I believe Nevada will be best served by holding its caucuses on February 4th," said Priebus.
While a February date would come later in the calendar, Priebus argued a caucus then could be even more prominent than holding it between Iowa and New Hampshire because it would have more influence. Also he said Nevada, allowed to be the first Western contest, will still have major impact.
"It seems unlikely that Nevada will get the attention it deserves if it is wedged in between the states that historically have been first," Priebus wrote.
If Nevada goes ahead with a January date, it would lose half of its delegates to the Republican Convention.
Tarkanian had a conference call with the 17 county chairmen on Thursday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Afterward, she issued a statement saying while no decision was made she is committed to keeping the party prominent in the selection process.
"My goals throughout the process have been consistent, remain the first state in the West, draw national attention to the hardships facing Nevadans due to President Obama's failed leadership, and to preserve Nevada's carve out status for the future. Tonight I once again laid out these goals for preserving Nevada's prominent status and now our committee will collectively vote this weekend to determine a final date. Ultimately, no matter when the caucus will be held, I will fight to make sure Nevada voters will continue to have an influential role in determining our Party's nominee and in making Barack Obama a one-term president," Tarkanian said in a statement.
Priebus seemed to indicate Nevada's influence as an early or what is known as a "carve-out" state could be better guaranteed in the future if the caucus is moved.
"Nevada's status as a carve-out state is more likely to be maintained in the future if you opt for February 4th," Priebus wrote. "I believe that the uncertainty of the calendar and related drama is tainting all of the carve-out states."
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