Iowa Republicans Set the Date for the Party’s Caucuses — and It’s Early

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Iowa Republicans voted on Saturday to hold their caucuses on Jan. 15, 2024, pushing the state’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest weeks earlier than in recent years.

The state party voted unanimously to hold the elections on the third Monday of the month, which coincides with the federal holiday recognizing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the state party, said in a statement after the vote that the Republicans “remain committed to maintaining Iowa’s cherished first-in-the-nation caucuses and look forward to holding a historic caucus in the coming months and defeating Joe Biden come November 2024.”

Iowa Democrats were “aware of the decision” but “did not have a chance to have any input” on the date selection, according to a statement from Rita Hart, the chair of the state party.

“No matter what, Iowa Democrats are committed to moving forward with the most inclusive caucus process in Iowa’s history,” Ms. Hart said.

Republican voters at a caucus location in Pella, Iowa, in February 2016.Credit…Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Why It Matters: Republicans Reaffirm While Democrats Reorder

Republican presidential hopefuls have been campaigning aggressively in the state, which is seen as crucial to many candidates, including former President Donald J. Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, former Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, all of whom are courting the state’s more rural and evangelical voters in an effort to gain early momentum in the race.

The selected day is also the date that a judge has set for a defamation trial against Mr. Trump filed by E. Jean Carroll. Ms. Carroll (who also has filed a separate defamation suit) won a civil case against Mr. Trump in May.

Iowa’s status as the first presidential contest was seemingly upended last year, when Democrats reordered their nominating calendar to prioritize states with more racial diversity and move away from the caucus system.

With Mr. Biden’s approval, the D.N.C. in February voted in favor of a new calendar that propelled South Carolina — the state that saved his candidacy in 2020 — to the first primary spot on Feb. 3, 2024, from the fourth position it held in 2020. Democrats in New Hampshire and Nevada would then hold their contests three days later.

Republicans did not follow suit, keeping Iowa in first position, meaning the Midwestern state remains a key battleground for Republicans as the large field of contenders try to dislodge Mr. Trump from his position as the front-runner for the party’s nomination.

Background: Iowa Isn’t Always Right, but It’s Still Important

The date chosen by the state party is weeks earlier than it was for the past several caucuses: In 2020 the contest was held on Feb. 3, and in 2016 it fell on Feb. 1. The last time the state held its caucuses in January was in 2012, when they occurred just three days into the new year.

Iowa has not selected the party’s eventual nominee, excluding incumbent presidents, since 2000, when George W. Bush won the caucuses and then the general election.

Still, many Republican candidates, and voters nationwide, see the now-firmly-red state as crucial to gaining early momentum and national attention. In a year when Mr. Trump maintains a considerable lead in the primary polls, performing well with a constituency well-accustomed to being courted by politicians is seen by many candidates in the 2024 race as vital to any chance at success.

What’s Next: The Date Has Changed, but Not Much Else

Republican presidential hopefuls will continue to court Iowans in the six remaining months before the caucuses, as front-runners and long-shot candidates alike have ramped up their appearances in the state.

Mr. Trump held a rally in Iowa on Friday, where he made farming issues central to his pitch for why voters should select him, a clear nod to the state’s agriculture-based economy. And Mr. DeSantis’s wife, Casey, visited Iowa on Thursday for an event held alongside the state’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds.

Several candidates will appear in the state next week for the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, advertised as “the Midwest’s biggest gathering of Christians seeking cultural transformation.” The event will feature appearances from candidates including Mr. Scott and Mr. Pence, as well as an interview with Mr. DeSantis and the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

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