Primary calendar watchers have been waiting to hear from New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, whose decision on when the New Hampshire primary was to be held remained, as of last week, the last few bars of a complicated dance involving the four early primary states (New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada) and the state of Florida, which encroached on the hallowed turf of the aforementioned foursome by moving its primary to Jan. 31.
Well Gardner has put out a lengthy missive on the matter, in which he -- oh, you know what? I'm just going to cut to the chase:
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. The dates of Tuesday, December 13th, and Tuesday, December 6th are realistic options, and we have logistics in place to make either date happen if needed. Candidates have been campaigning here, and elsewhere, for months, and it is about time we begin the next stage of the presidential nominating process.
You read that correctly: a Dec. 6 primary is on the table. That's probably why earlier Wednesday, you heard a noise that sounded like every political reporter in America crying out in pain.
But, in Gardner's mind, this is all Florida's fault: "With Florida moving its primary earlier than originally planned to January 31st, and South Carolina making a move to set its primary ten days earlier to January 21st, that began to limit options for setting our date in January." From there, Nevada made the move to Jan. 14, leaving Gardner no choice but to hold the primary on Jan. 7 at the latest, because of a state law that "mandates that [he sets New Hampshire's] election 7 days or more before any event that would threaten our traditional leadoff status."
Gardner intimates that Jan. 3 was the best option for the Granite State, but that's when Iowa swooped in and claimed that date for its caucuses. Gardner says:
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. Our primary will have little meaning if states crowd into holding their events just hours after our polls have closed.
In other words, New Hampshire needs some lead-up time and some breathing room between its primary and the next contest in order for the state to feel like its primary is a really big deal. So Nevada either has to rethink its date and push it later, or New Hampshire crosses the New Year Line and we're voting for the GOP nominee in eight weeks time. Naturally, Nevada feels just as protective about its time and space as New Hampshire does -- as does South Carolina.
We know that New Hampshire thinks of itself as a Really Big Deal, by the way, because Gardner spends nine paragraphs explaining the New Hampshire primary's awesomeness before issuing his ultimatum. (He gives this lengthy diatribe some very melodramatic section headings, titled "DEMOCRACY IS HARD WORK," "NEW HAMSHIRE [sic] IS FIRST FOR A REASON," and -- my favorite -- "CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVES."
I have to imagine that many people are, indeed, considering the alternatives to allowing these early states to hold the entire democratic process hostage to their territorial pissings! Go ahead and read Gardner's full missive, below.
UPDATE: Politico's Reid Epstein notes that a December 6th Primary would violate a Federal law that "requires military ballots be shipped to troops at least 45 days before an election" which means that "the earliest Gardner could schedule the election would be Tuesday, Dec. 13." But you simply must click through to read Epstein's piece just for the joy of learning how Nevada GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian reacted to the news of Gardner's ultimatum when Epstein explained it to her. It is delightful.