ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
The start of 2012 rumblings has renewed discussion over the early primary and caucus calendar, with quadrennial questions being raised about the relative importance of states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in capturing the Republican nomination.
But Matt Strawn, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today that Iowa will be as important as ever in determining who will be the GOP standard-bearer in 2012. He added that it would be “very perilous” for Republicans to avoid the caucuses, since that could jeopardize their chances in the general election.
“When you look at the activity on the ground in Iowa compared to say South Carolina, New Hampshire — we've actually seen more visits that the other kick-off states,” Strawn told us.
While several expected Republican candidates – including Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum – have made regular visits to Iowa, the Hawkeye State has seen less of Mitt Romney, whose disappointing performance in the 2008 caucuses has prompted discussion of whether he will effectively skip the state in 2012.
Strawn said any move to minimize Iowa’s role would be a mistake:
“In my conversations with the campaigns or potential campaigns, I have not received any indication that Iowa is not part of their strategy for participating in the primary process. Now the degree to which they participate that's up to the individual campaigns,” he said.
“But secondly, when you look at how dramatically Iowa has changed since 2008, you've got to put Iowa back in the general election electoral map. So I don't think you can become president by writing off Iowa in the general election. And if you don't campaign in our caucuses and ask our Republicans for support, it’s gonna be tough to motivate them to turn out in the general election if you are the nominee.”
“So I think it would be a very perilous strategy for someone that ultimately wants to be successful and earn electoral votes in 2012.
Strawn said the field is “wide open in Iowa,” despite the fact that Romney and Mike Huckabee both campaigned there extensively in 2008.
The 2012 Iowa caucuses are currently scheduled for Feb. 6, though Strawn said that date may change if necessary: “We’re gonna do what we need to do to maintain our role” as the first state on the presidential nominating calendar.
Strawn also hinted that a great place to campaign might be at Iowa Banstormers games. (Strawn is one of the owners of the Des Moines-based Arena Football team.)
“It would be a fantastic way to reach 10,000 Iowa Republicans — or Iowans — nine times a year during the spring and summer,” he said.
Watch the segment with Matt Strawn HERE.