Iowa Dems Expected to Caucus Jan. 3

ABC News’ David Chalian and Mike Chesney Report: Iowa Democrats are set to officially join the Republicans in kicking off the presidential nomination contest earlier than ever before.

State party leaders will have a conference call on Sunday at 9:00 pm ET to officially pick a date for the caucuses.

“On that call the Iowa Democratic Party will recommend to its state central committee that the caucuses be moved to Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008,” IDP communications director Carrie Giddins told ABC News.

Much of the Democratic nomination contest is focused on Iowa.  It is the one state where Sen. Hillary Clinton is in a close competition with her Democratic rivals Sen. Obama and Sen. Edwards.  In every state that follows Iowa in the process, Clinton is currently holding on to a significant lead as she is nationally.

Senators Obama and Edwards are counting on a victory in Iowa to alter that dynamic.  Therefore, by setting the caucuses as the very first contest early in the year (assuming New Hampshire remains in 2008), Iowa Democrats have ensured their critical role in determining the nominee of their party.

Last week the Iowa Republican Party chose Jan. 3 as the date for its caucuses.

The date for the other “first-in-the-nation” nominating event remains uncertain. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner will likely announce a decision on the date for his state’s primary shortly after Nov. 2.

Gardner wants to give his state its time in the spotlight and may feel that Jan. 3 gives him enough space to set the Granite State’s primary date for Tuesday, Jan. 8.

But, he has also warned that he might choose a mid-December 2007 date for the primary if he feels other states are threatening New Hampshire’s first primary status.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has long pushed for breaking New Hampshire’s hold on the poll position for presidential primaries. The Armed Services Committee Chair feels the state is too small and unrepresentative of the nation as a whole to have such a significant role in the nomination process.

Levin spoke with reporters on Wednesday and called New Hampshire’s lock on the top spot, “cockamamie” and added that “no state should have that dominant a role.”

He even went so far as to threaten that Michigan Democrats could hold their party caucuses on whatever day New Hampshire chooses. Michigan currently has its primary scheduled for Jan. 15.

So, even though Iowa Democrats and Republicans have come together on scheduling, the calendar craziness continues with a game of chicken between New Hampshire and Michigan.

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