DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Iowa Gov. Chet Culver vowed Friday to hold his state's presidential caucuses in January, despite speculation the contests would move to December in order to preserve the Hawkeye State's long-standing tradition of having the first say in helping select the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.
"We have no interest in going in December, for a lot of reasons," said Culver at a news conference held in the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters. "This is the 2008 delegate selection process, and those delegates should be selected in 2008."
Culver's declaration comes 24 hours after the South Carolina Republican Party announced that it would hold its primary on January 19, an action that creates a domino effect and forces another traditional early voting state, New Hampshire, to move its primary to January 12 or perhaps earlier.
New Hampshire state law requires it to have a seven day buffer between its primary and a similar election. Iowa, too, is bound by its own state law to have an eight day buffer after its caucuses. Under the current circumstances, there is a very small window to hold all of these nominating contests in January. But Culver left open the possibility of changing the Iowa law to make sure his state is not caucusing in 2007.
"In this state, we're going to still have Christmas," said Culver, who was flanked by Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro and state Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan. "We're very firm in the fact that we're going to have the caucuses in January."
Right now, the Iowa caucuses are scheduled for January 14.
The rush by several states to exert more influence in the 2008 presidential nomination process has thrown the traditional calendar into chaos, and will likely result in the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees being selected on February 5.
As it now stands, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida are all holding either primaries or caucuses in January, with Michigan threatening to join this quintet. On February 5, more than 20 additional states could hold their own primaries. This has caused headaches for the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee, both of which have threatened to sanction several of these states for not abiding by established rules prohibiting the holding of nominating contests until February.
Still, the threat of sanctions - such as not seating a state’s full delegation at the presidential nominating convention - has not deterred party leaders such as South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson. It has also created interesting alliances between states seeking to preserve their role in the presidential selection process.
In a symbolic move, Dawson announced his primary date at a news conference in the New Hampshire State Capitol building. He was joined by New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner and several Granite State Republicans and Democrats.
"We at the South Carolina Republican Party respect New Hampshire's historically significant place in presidential politics," Dawson said. "And we are here to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends in New Hampshire to reaffirm the importance of preserving the prominent roles both of our states play in presidential politics."
Gardner described Dawson's decision to make the announcement in New Hampshire "a truly … extraordinary kind gesture of goodwill (to) the people of New Hampshire and their cherished primary tradition."
While the national parties have said New Hampshire's primary would be held on January 22, Gardner said he never recognized that date. But he also said that he wanted to work with Iowa to ensure that the state's tradition is protected. Iowa Secretary of State Mauro said he is talking with Gardner, while Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Brennan emphasized he is working with the DNC to ensure Iowa retains its unique status.
There are many unresolved issues in what has become a complicated game of chess between the states and the national parties.