Calendar war continues as N.H. considers primary in early Dec.
New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner said today he may schedule the first-in-the nation primary as early as Dec. 6, marking the first time ever that New Hampshire voters would pick a presidential candidate in December.
“Any Tuesday in December would be a possibility, but that’s one of them,” Gardner said today, when asked about a Dec. 6 primary. “It’s not something I would do lightly. It would be done regrettably, but if it has to be done, we’re going to comply with our tradition and our state law.”
Gardner said that, from 1916 until 1972, New Hampshire held its primary in March. But he said it has been forced to move up the date in recent years, as other states have pushed up their primary dates to attract more attention from the candidates.
This year, the race for an early vote has been especially fierce. Florida has scheduled its primary for Jan. 31, South Carolina has chosen Jan. 21, and Nevada will hold its caucus on Jan. 14. Iowa has yet to schedule a date for its first-in-the-nation caucus.
Drew Ivers, a member of the GOP Central Committee in Iowa, said the panel met last night to discuss a date for that state’s caucuses, and is leaning toward Jan. 3, the same date it chose in 2008. He said if New Hampshire decides to hold its primary in December, it would certainly spark some consideration of a new date for Iowa. But he said Iowa Republicans last night expressed “a significant reluctance,” to move the caucuses into December, because they believe the state can have more of an impact by holding its caucus in the election year.
“If New Hampshire moves into December that challenges their relevance,” Ivers said. “It’s like, ‘Gosh, you are actually holding primaries not even in the year of the election.’ It’s like, wow, the general public and the media are going to say, ‘this doesn’t seem quite the right, to move it so early you’re actually in the previous year.’”
Gardner said he expects to pick a date for the New Hampshire primary after Oct. 17, and added that he’s “not there yet” in his decision-making process. If Gardner picks a date in December, it would set off a furious scramble among the Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney holds a commanding lead.