What a mess. Nevada has leapfrogged South Carolina and scheduled its caucuses for January 15.
Nevada is one of four states authorized by the Republican National Committee to hold the first contests on the road to choosing the party's nominee to face President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election. The other three states are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The move by Nevada's Republicans to move up by more than a month their caucus from the previously planned date of February 18 followed Florida's decision last week to hold its presidential primary on January 31.
Florida's move, in defiance of national party leaders, was intended to boost that state's clout in picking the Republican nominee, but it left the nominating process in turmoil.
"I'm extremely pleased to finally have a firm date for a caucus that will greatly improve Nevada's standing and relevance in terms of national politics," Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian said in a statement announcing the date change.
"By establishing this date, we maintain Nevada's standing as one of the first four 'carve-out' states and as the very first in the West," she said.
At this rate, we'll be sitting down to Christmas dinner and watching the Iowa returns.
Unless the RNC acts fast, the potential is there for some real drama. To wit:
Under the Republican National Committee rules, Florida will be punished for moving up its primary with the automatic loss of half of its delegates to the party's nominating convention, which will be held in Tampa, Florida, in August 2012, senior party officials said.
But New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina would also lose half their convention delegates if they vote before February 1 -- diluting their clout in choosing the nominee. Iowa would not because its caucuses are nonbinding.
This is important because gaining the nomination at the convention will require a majority of all delegates - not just those in attendance or authorized to vote. If several states cast only half their ballots, the primary winner in those states will be at a disadvantage.
What's the point of making rules if the states aren't going to follow them?