The GOP primary battle is getting ugly, and I don’t mean between the candidates.
Numerous states have decided to move their election contests up on the calendar, sacrificing a full slate of delegates for the status, media attention and campaign cash that comes with an early event. But this game of leapfrog has forced the traditional early states into a corner, and now New Hampshire is fighting back.
New Hampshire, traditionally the first primary in the country, is telling Nevada, who has moved their caucus up to January 14th, to move back to January 17th. New Hampshire state law says that the Granite state must hold the first primary, and that it must occur at least seven days prior to the next “similar contest.”
But Nevada is holding firm, saying that a caucus and a primary aren’t “similar,” and because of that, New Hampshire can hold their primary on the 10th without violating their own state statutes.
New Hampshire isn’t buying it. Caught between the January 14th Nevada caucus and the January 3rd Iowa caucus date, the Secretary of State says he has no choice but to consider an early December primary, citing the 6th or 13th as potential dates. In a released statement, Bill Gardner said, “Right now, the problem is the date of Nevada. We will respond as we need to in order to honor New Hampshire’s tradition, and to keep our primary relevant. Not to do so would allow us to lose an important element of American democracy forever. New Hampshire will not let that happen.”
December 6th has already been vetoed as an option, as the logistics make it impossible to hit filing deadlines and print ballots to send overseas in time for the event. So that leaves December 13th, and would put New Hampshire into an even more unusual spot than hosting a primary in 2011 — they would be the first endorsement all together. Iowa, traditionally number one, would have no ability to stay in front, with New Hampshire literally taking the first available spot in the calendar.
Will Nevada blink and move back four days? Will New Hampshire back down and take the open January 10th date? Or will New Hampshire now be the first contest in the country — something that could essentially hand Mitt Romney the GOP nomination.
At this point, all bets are off.
Tentatively, at this time, the calendar looks like this:
New Hampshire – Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Iowa – Tuesday, January 3rd
Nevada – Saturday, January 14th
South Carolina – Saturday January 21st
Florida – Tuesday, January 31st
Photo credit: Jonathan McIntosh