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The first votes of the 2012 presidential campaign will be cast on the third day of the new year, according to a schedule announced Monday evening by the Iowa Republican Party.

State GOP Chair Matt Strawn made his proposed Jan. 3 date for the Iowa caucuses official -- in a statement that lamented the compressed campaign schedule and urged that the voting not be moved up any further.

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Iowans will begin the process of picking a Republican presidential nominee in more than 1,700 precinct gatherings that will open at 7 p.m. Central Time on the first Tuesday of 2012, Strawn announced.

Iowa's plans may be more a hopeful than solid: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has not yet set a date for his state's primary and is threatening to move it to December because of Nevada's plans to hold caucuses on Jan. 14. Such a move by New Hampshire would certainly result in a corresponding one by Iowa, which traditionally holds the first of the presidential eliminations.

A Jan. 3 date would mirror the 2008 schedule, when Iowans caucused on Jan. 3 and New Hampshire held its primary on Jan. 8. GOP officials had hoped to move the voting back to February, but states began leapfrogging the schedule beginning with Florida, which has announced plans for a Jan. 31 primary.

Strawn expressed exasperation with the developments and pleaded with Nevada to keep the 2012 election from starting in 2011. 

“I will do everything in my power on the RNC to hold Florida accountable for creating this mess, but the culpability for creating a compressed January calendar does not end there," he said in a statement the Iowa GOP released Monday evening. The actions of early state newcomer Nevada have also exacerbated this problem and unnecessarily crowded the January calendar. Time remains for Nevada to respect the process, honor tradition and rectify the problem in a way that will restore order to the nomination calendar."


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