Gardner said the main reason for the earlier than expected date is that Delaware officials have told him they will probably hold their Republican primary on Feb. 8.
New Hampshire law requires the state's primary to be held a week before any other state's primary.
The announcement gives other states a target date as they scramble to schedule their contests as close as possible to New Hampshire's primary and Iowa's presidential caucuses, tentatively set for Jan. 31.
The New Hampshire primary traditionally has been in mid-February, eight days after the Iowa caucuses.
South Carolina is having its Republican primary Feb. 19. Delaware Democrats will hold their primary four days after New Hampshire's, but both Vice President Al Gore and Bill Bradley have pledged to ignore that event.
That kind of pressure prompted the New Hampshire Legislature to change state law this year to allow the primary to be held as early as December.
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