Sandoval says Nevada GOP may move caucus to Feb. 4

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said Thursday the state GOP might move its presidential caucus to Feb. 4 because a calendar dispute with New Hampshire has become a distraction for the party and the campaigns.

Sandoval confirmed he and other Nevada GOP leaders have been talking with the Republican National Committee about ditching the state's Jan. 14 date, so New Hampshire can schedule its first-in-the-nation primary for Jan. 10.

Pressure on Nevada is intense. New Hampshire has been threatening to hold its primary in December, throwing early voting into 2011 and the calendar into disarray. Also, several lower-tier presidential candidates have threatened to boycott the Nevada caucuses unless the state gives in on the date.

"I want to have the candidates come to Nevada," Sandoval told reporters after speaking at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. "I don't want to hear about boycotts."

Two days after Nevada hosted a CNN presidential debate in Las Vegas, Sandoval said the calendar standoff had become more troubling, and GOP leaders want to resolve it.

"I think what's happening now is distracting from the candidates," Sandoval said. "I want the focus on the candidates. I want it to be so that there's an orderly process, so folks can get back to the business of campaigning and not talking about one date versus another."

The Nevada GOP central committee is set to meet Saturday to decide the date and other issues, including whether to allow same-day registration for the party meetings where party members pick their presidential preferences.

If Nevada moves to Feb. 4, it would hold the fifth vote in the nation instead of the third, behind Iowa and New Hampshire. Iowa set its caucuses for Jan. 3, and South Carolina scheduled its primary for Jan. 21 after Florida jumped the early-state calendar by setting its primary for Jan. 31.

Nevada also would be allowed to take all of its 28 delegates to the nominating convention instead of losing half as a penalty for breaking national party rules by voting before Feb. 1.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sent Nevada GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian a letter Thursday asking the state to move the caucus to Feb. 4: "A February 4 caucus date will eliminate the uncertainty caused by Florida's action and the posturing by New Hampshire's secretary of state, restore order to the primary calendar and benefit Nevada in multiple ways."

Sandoval said that the most important thing for him is to ensure Nevada holds the first presidential caucus in the West, which it would if the party picks Feb. 4.

"I'm hoping we can reach a resolution that's mutually beneficial to the candidates, the state of Nevada and the Republican Party," Sandoval said.

The governor dismissed the notion it was an "arm-wrestling contest" and said a compromise is good for everyone.

"I don't think it's caving at all" to New Hampshire, he said. "I don't call it caving when you're trying to work for the good of all."

Sandoval said he discussed the matter on Tuesday at the debate with Priebus. Sandoval said the RNC wasn't offering Nevada promises or benefits for moving.

Initially, Sandoval had backed the decision by Tarkanian and other party leaders to hold firm on Jan. 14 when New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said the Silver State must move because he wants a seven-day window between contests. But the Granite State has much greater influence than the new early-voting state of Nevada.