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2012 Election Season Takes Shape with Dates for Iowa Straw Poll, Nevada Caucus

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The 2012 election season is shaping up for Republicans. Iowa's GOP said Thursday its presidential straw poll will be held Aug. 3, 2011, and Republicans in Nevada announced that state's caucus is set for Feb. 18, 2012.

The news comes days after the New Hampshire GOP said its first presidential debate for the 2012 primary will be held June 7, 2011. And last month, the Reagan Presidential Foundation said it would kick off the election season by hosting a panel of Republican presidential candidates in the spring.

The results of the Iowa straw poll aren't binding but are traditionally an early gauge for candidates looking to test their mettle with voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the poll ahead of the 2008 election.

"This is the first true test of support in the presidential nominating cycle," Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said in a statement obtained by Roll Call. "Candidates come face-to-face with tens of thousands of Iowans at the Straw Poll, and will reach every corner of our state and a national audience in our presidential debate."

Roll Call said this year's straw poll will include a debate Aug. 11, 2011, which will be broadcast on Fox News.

Nevada's early caucus is trumpeted as "First in the West." Politico pointed out Nevada could end up the third state nationwide to vote for their party's next nominee.

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