For these past few months, primary calendar watchers have been anticipating that any one of a number of states threatening to buck the agreed-upon schedule would move its primary to an early date on the calendar, thus violating the holy writ that says Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada get to have the nation's first contests. Today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer took that step, issuing an official proclamation that the Arizona primary shall be held on Feb. 28.
It was only a week ago that Brewer opted against moving the primary even further up the calendar, to a January date that would have definitely created havoc -- those pre-ordained early primary states would have definitely jumped up the calendar even further. December 2011 dates, in fact, were on the table. On Sept. 2, Brewer made it clear that Arizona would not seek a January date, but maintained that "sometime after the 31st [of January] is still possible." The problem, of course, is that Arizona is not technically allowed under RNC rules to have its primary before March 6. Brewer, however, has maintained that getting her state clear of the post-March 6 herd will help to bring national attention to Arizona's issues. The state's many, many issues.
Obviously, the February date is not the aggressive incursion that many feared. All the same, state party officials in South Carolina and Iowa are in a predictable snit over Brewer's move, and are threatening moves of their own. Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn is having the more restrained one. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Strawn said, "It's too early to assess the impact ... The question remains whether that will force other states to move up and that would then bump us forward. We don't know the answer to that yet."
Of course, there's still some distance between Arizona's primary and Iowa's, which is scheduled for Feb. 6. But South Carolina is already sitting on the Feb. 28 date, and expected to have it all to itself. Strawn's Palmetto State counterpart, Chad Connelly, is a little more irate, telling Politico, "We're not going to share our date with anybody ... Especially, not with any state that violates the rules."
The upshot here is that South Carolina might respond to this incursion in turn by moving up the calendar, thus encroaching on Iowa and New Hampshire's turf. In that scenario, it's likely that those two states will also move to earlier dates. (The current state of the New Hampshire GOP is FUBAR, but there is a state law that mandates its primary be held seven days ahead of everyone else's.) In addition, if Arizona succeeds in flouting RNC rules on the matter, it could embolden other states with March dates to follow suit (Florida comes to mind).
At any rate, reporters who expect to be given Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary embed assignments should probably avoid making and hard-and-fast plans for New Year's Eve.