LAS VEGAS — Nevada Republicans have shifted their presidential caucuses to early February, a move that ends an increasingly bitter standoff among rival states and for the first time clarifies the path to the Republican presidential nomination.
There will be no voting before Christmas. That's despite warnings from New Hampshire's top election official that Nevada's initial insistence to host its contest in mid January could force the Granite State to schedule the nation's first Republican primary election in roughly six weeks.
But facing boycott threats from campaigns, incentive offers from the Republican National Committee, and the private blessing of the Mitt Romney campaign, Nevada Republicans voted Saturday to set their caucuses for Feb. 4. It will be the West's first stop in the race for the Republican presidential nomination and the fifth contest overall, after Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
"The candidates are anxious to come here and campaign and don't want to have the heat put on them by New Hampshire to stay away," former Nevada Gov. Bob List, a national Republican committeeman, said before Saturday's vote. "We have to eat a little crow perhaps in some people's minds, but I think in the end it's a win-win."
The calendar scramble had consumed Republican officials in early voting states and complicated candidates' decisions about travel, the timing of television advertisements and the distribution of limited resources. But with New Hampshire now free to settle on its preferred date of Jan. 10, the final puzzle pieces appear to have fallen into place.
Iowa will keep its Jan. 3 caucus date despite Nevada's move, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn said Saturday.
Nevada's shift ensures the state won't suffer penalties expected for states that violated national party rules by skipping ahead to boost their political influence. Nevada Republicans also stand to earn some perks at the party's national convention in Florida next August. As part of negotiations in recent days, the Republican National Committee promised Nevada delegates they could sit on the floor "in the best positions," and would have prime hotel space if they made the change, according to Nevada GOP chairwoman Amy Tarkanian.