The move has had the most effect in Iowa. For example, it's normal to have the last debate a few days before the caucuses. When Iowa was planning to hold the caucuses on Feb. 6, a Monday, a debate was planned for Thursday, Feb. 2. Now, with the caucuses on Jan. 3, it's just not possible to hold a debate a few days beforehand, unless Republicans wanted to do it on New Year's Eve. So the last debate of a debate-packed season was Dec. 15 -- nearly three weeks before the caucuses. Because of Florida's move, Iowa voters won't get a last look at all the candidates.
The final days of the Iowa campaign will also have a weird start-and-stop quality. "Everybody is going to hit the pause button over this weekend," says party chairman Strawn. Christmas break will be followed, he says, by "an intense sprint at the end trying to capture the attention of caucus-goers who have kids home from school." And then there will be New Year's.
Florida's move will have one more effect, this one felt nationally. Because of all the reshuffling, there will be a strangely quiet period in the Republican race in February. After voting in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Feb. 7, there will be three weeks before the next contests, on Feb. 28 in Arizona and Michigan. There would have been no gap had Florida not broken the Republicans' carefully planned schedule.
In the end, Florida's move might backfire. State Republicans wanted an earlier primary to make sure Florida would play a major role in selecting the candidate, even if the race was over quickly. But if the campaign stretches out for months, it will be later primaries, and not Florida, that could prove decisive. It could turn out that Florida Republicans outsmarted themselves.
Meanwhile, the Merry-Christmas-Happy-New-Year-please-vote-for-me campaigning continues in Iowa. Nobody wants it that way, but they have to play the hand that Florida dealt them.
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