New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner — who by state law has the mission to make sure the state has the first primary, and has the authority to unilaterally set the date for the contest — has just announced that it will be held on January 10, an announcement that followed weeks of wrangling over the GOP primary calendar.
Gardner paid tribute to the state’s primary tradition, as a place where any citizen can get on the ballot to be leader of the whole country. He also thanked the state GOP chairs in Iowa and South Carolina, for working with him to preserve the position of the early states.
This settles the January primary and caucus calendar into the following order: Iowa on January 3, New Hampshire on January 10, South Carolina on January 21, and Florida — which broke the RNC’s rules for the second cycle in a row, losing half its delegates in order to obtain the early calendar position — on January 31.
The national GOP’s formal rules, adopted last year by the Republican National Committee, provided for four states to vote in February: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Then other states could hold contests in March under various methods of proportional representation, and states that voted from April onward could be winner-take-all.
But that was all for naught, as other states began to crowd into February — such as Arizona scheduling its contest for February 28. Then Florida took the really big step, by jumping the calendar and scheduling its primary for January 31, which in turn provoked the official four early states to move even earlier into January.
South Carolina scheduled its primary for January 21, a Saturday, which then led the Nevada GOP to pick the preceding Saturday of January 14 for its caucuses. However, this cut too close for Gardner, who wanted to preserve a buffer of more days after New Hampshire. So in response, Gardner threatened to hold the primary in December.
In response, the national GOP leaned on Nevada to push its caucuses back into February — thus forfeiting their position in the first month of primaries. In the end, the state GOP did indeed back off, moving its caucuses to February 4.