New Hampshire Threatens December 6th Primary

The insanity that is primary scheduling continues:

New Hampshire is considering moving up its Republican primary to as early as December 6 as states vie for more influence in picking the party’s nominee for the 2012 presidential election, a senior state official said on Wednesday.

New Hampshire jealously guards its traditional position of holding the first primary and the second contest overall in the presidential nominating race, behind the Iowa caucuses. But other states have moved forward their contests, threatening New Hampshire’s status.

Secretary of State William Gardner, New Hampshire’s top election official, criticized Nevada Republicans for rescheduling their caucus for January 14 — a move that was prompted by Florida advancing its primary.

“It’s really up to Nevada,” Gardner said in a statement. “If Nevada does not accept a date of Tuesday, January 17 or later for its caucus, it leaves New Hampshire no choice but to consider December of this year.”


“A January 14 Nevada caucus would squeeze us into a date that wedges us by just a few days between two major caucus states,” Gardner said, referring to Iowa and Nevada.

Instead, he said December 13 and December 6 were “realistic options, and we have logistics in place to make either date happen if needed,” Gardner said.

I’ve quite honestly run out of words to describe how insane Gardner is acting here. There is no rational reason why he couldn’t just schedule the primary on January 10th, a week after Iowa, and give us basically the same primary schedule we had in 2008. (Ideally, I’d rather see this start in February, but that’s not going to happen now.) Instead, he’s insisting on this unnecessary seven day buffer and threatening to start the 2012 Presidential race in less than 60 days. Like I said, nuts.

Ironically, it strikes me that doing this move could end up hurting New Hampshire’s influence on the race. For one thing, a primary in December that everyone expects Mitt Romney to win followed by a month-long interregnum means that alot of people are going to forget about New Hampshire by the time Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina roll around. For another, this kind of petulance may be exactly the type of thing that spurs both political parties to assert some control over the scheduling process and undercut the ability of states like New Hampshire to do things like this.

In the end, I think Gardner is just venting here and that we’ll end up with a January 10th primary. But don’t discount the possibility of something truly dumb happening.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brett says:

    I wouldn’t mind it. Why not get it started in December?

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Brett: Because the general election will still be in November. That means that we’ll have our nominees for probably 10 months. That’s just asking for trouble.

  3. Jay Tea says:

    Here are a few relevant facts, from a lifelong New Hampshirite.

    Our “first primary” is written into state law, so Bill Gardner has NO wiggle room on this. He HAS to make it first.

    Gardner actually helped write that law, as well as the definitive book on the NH primary.

    In NH, the Secretary of State is appointed by the legislature, and Gardner has had the job for over 30 years — so he’s got plenty of bipartisan support. In fact, he’s a Democrat, and it’s been mainly Republican legislatures that keep reappointing him. He’s one of my favorite Democrats.

    Gardner is a completely boring nebbish, except for this one area. He lives and breathes “primary.”

    If Bill says I gotta go vote the first week in December, I’ll be there. If he says it’s next Tuesday, I’ll be there. Last time, it was right after New Year’s Day. If Bill says it’s gotta be earlier, then so be it.


  4. Jay Tea says:

    So, Doug:

    In the end, I think Gardner is just venting here and that we’ll end up with a January 10th primary. But don’t discount the possibility of something truly dumb happening.

    Gardner doesn’t vent. You vent, I vent, everyone else does. Bill doesn’t. Especially when it comes to the primary.

    Trust me on this one. I’ve known people who’ve worked for him, and observed him for literally decades. I don’t think he’s physically capable of “venting” like normal people.


  5. @Jay Tea:

    In that case he’s making a threat that, if he follows through on it, will make New Hampshire mostly irrelevant for 2012

  6. Jay Tea says:

    @Doug Mataconis: We got four electoral votes. We’ll never get a Convention. What do we have to lose?


  7. Boyd says:

    @Jay Tea: The problem is not so much “first primary,” it’s “at least seven days before the next primary/caucus/whatever nomination process.”

  8. Jay Tea says:

    @Boyd: That’s just nitpicking, chum. The end effect is the same.


  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I suggest they hold the primary for the 2016 election on January 22, 2013.

  10. Boyd says:

    @Jay Tea:

    That’s just nitpicking, chum.

    And your point is…?

  11. Jay Tea says:

    @Boyd: New Hampshire’s law specifies our primary must be seven days before any “similar election” in any other state. Caucuses are usually not considered similar, and the “seven days” is partly to reflect how most of these things get held on Tuesdays, partly to keep us from getting swamped from, say, “Super Tuesday” morphing into “Super The Day After New Hampshire’s Primary.”

    It’s gonna be on a Tuesday, it’s gonna be at least a week before any other primaries, and the “seven days” really isn’t a huge problem in and of itself, like you implied.

    Or am I missing something in how that “seven days” hugely complicates things? As I said, Tuesday is our normal election day anyway…


  12. Boyd says:

    @Jay Tea: Sorry, as usual my attempt at humor is so obscure that I’m the only one who recognizes it as such. My comment was intended to mean, “Of course I’m nitpicking; it’s what I do!”

    That being said, I’m too lazy / don’t care enough to research the question, but my understanding is that Nevada’s contest is a caucus, so if what you’re saying is accurate, then it should have zero impact on the scheduling of the NH primary, and can’t legitimately be used as the rationale for NH moving to December.

  13. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    Because the general election will still be in November. That means that we’ll have our nominees for probably 10 months. That’s just asking for trouble.

    Agreed. Especially if the nominee ends up as Romney. As I suggested elsewhere, as it’s clear he’s not the choice of party activists, a long gap without a Conservative VP to fire-up the base could be really detrimental to his campaign. Especially since so many conservatives pundits call him a RINO.

    Plus a quick win risks marking him as the “establishment republican candidate” (a title which hasn’t served candidates well in a number of special elections).

    In this way, an overly long campaign period might be just as detrimental as an overly long primary period.

  14. Tlaloc says:

    NH makes me happy. More chaos please.

  15. mantis says:

    Breaking News: Iowa Moves Caucus to October 11, Turnout Estimated at Zero Percent