In an usual public plea, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner says in a three-page memo that the date of the New Hampshire primary will only be set if or when Nevada moves its caucus. Ratcheting up the inter-state calendar jockeying, Gardner warns that unless the Nevada Republican Party moves its caucus from its scheduled January 14, 2012 date, New Hampshire's first in the nation primary will be held, gasp, in 2011.
"Right now, the problem is the date of Nevada," wrote Gardner. "If Nevada does not accept a date of Tuesday, January 17th or later for its caucus, it leaves New Hampshire no choice but to consider December of this year," he added. Gardner said Tuesday, December 13th and Tuesday, December 6th are "realistic options" for the date of the primary and the state could logistically make either day work. "Candidates have been campaigning here, and elsewhere, for months, and it is about time we begin the next stage of the presidential nominating process," he wrote.
The primary shuffle began when Florida decided to hold its primary on January 31, jumping ahead of the first four states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, that were given special status by Republican National Committee rules to hold their events in February, 2012. The RNC wished for all other states to begin their contests in March.
After Florida acted, South Carolina decided on January 21 for its primary, and the Nevada Republican party followed suit with its date a week prior. Under New Hampshire state law, the New Hampshire primary must be held one week prior to another contest. Gardner says January 3, 2012 was a possibility, but Iowa Republicans had discussed that date for their first in the nation caucus and that because of the Nevada date, the latest date in 2012 possible for the New Hampshire primary would be Saturday, January 7th.
"We cannot allow the political process to squeeze us into a date that wedges us by just a few days between two major caucus states," wrote Gardner. "Our primary will have little meaning if states crowd into holding their events just hours after our polls have closed."
Last week, Nevada Republican party Chair Amy Tarkanian said in a statement that the January 14th date was firm. "By establishing this date, we maintain Nevada's standing as one of the first four 'carve-out' states and as the very first in the west," she said.
Iowa and New Hampshire, the traditional first caucus and primary events have yet to set their event dates. While Iowa Republicans were in fact looking at January 3, 2012, they may consider a December date as well, if New Hampshire moves. While New Hampshire officials work to ensure its primary date is protected, Iowa prides itself on the first in the nation event and may very well jump ahead of any New Hampshire date.
That would leave Nevada as the first electoral contest in 2012, which could mean candidates, and the media, pay more attention to it, thereby giving it more prominence in the nominating process. Nevada Republican officials have yet to respond to the Gardner letter and their decision to either stay on January 14 or move, will force the other states to act accordingly.