Tom Sansonetti is the former Wyoming Republican chair and former chair of the RNC Rules Committee. He is also the man behind Wyoming's attempt to be a bigger player in presidential primary politics.
This week Wyoming Republicans announced they would hold their presidential nominating caucus on Jan. 5, the first Saturday in January. This would mean that Wyoming would join the growing list of states violating a Republican National Committee rules by holding their contest before Feb. 5. The new date might also mean that they actually have their caucuses before New Hampshire has its primary.
If they stick with that date it is unknown which candidates will take time to actually campaign in the state and if the Republican National Committee will follow through on its threats to punish them.
But Sansonetti said in an interview last night that Wyoming has already benefited. While Mitt Romney is the only candidate to visit Wyoming, something he did last week, Sansonetti says that is one more candidate than ever had before this early in the presidential cycle.
"Mitt himself said we are becoming important," Sansonetti said.
By why the move now?
Part of it is a function of party rules. The Wyoming GOP must submit plans to the RNC on how they will hold their nominating contest in a matter of days. Since they are not within the rules of the primary calendar, the RNC has said it will take away half of its delegates. This means about a dozen people. The state party will go ahead with plans anyway.
Why move it so early?
Earlier in the year the Wyoming GOP Executive Board said they would hold their contest on "the same day as the New Hampshire Primary, whenever that is." But since New Hampshire officials are threatening to hold the contest in 2007 that won't work for Wyoming anymore. Wyoming GOP bylaws state clearly that the nominating event has to occur in an even numbered year.
Sansonetti said the board was then looking at two dates, Jan. 8 and the Saturday before it on Jan. 5. All but one of the members believed a Saturday would bring more voter participation.
What is the point?
Sansonetti said there is a short term goal and a long term goal. In the short term they want Wyoming to be a bigger player in presidential politics. Second, "is to have the rules committee of the RNC get off their butts and come up with a system that is put into place ... that is fair," he said.