New Hampshire: Leader of the Pack
Besieged with challenges from other states seeking to steal some of its outsized electoral influence in the presidential nominating process, New Hampshire has struck back. Meeting in emergency session early this morning, Granite State election officials voted unanimously to move the date of its "first-in-the-nation" presidential primary to yesterday.
"Let Nevada try to beat that!" exulted one veteran state official, speaking anonymously in order to engage in some unauthorized gloating. Holding New Hampshire's primary on a date that's already come and gone was as logical as anything else in the seemingly never-ending jockeying for primary primacy.
The first domino to fall in this year's kerfuffle was Florida's decision weeks ago to jump the line with a much-earlier-than-expected January 31 primary. Florida's move drove Nevada and South Carolina to change their own caucus and primary dates, originally scheduled for February, to January 14 and January 21 respectively. Which convinced Iowa to advance its traditional "first-in-the-nation" (italic)caucuses(italic) from February 6 all the way up to January 3.
Which didn't leave enough room on the calendar for New Hampshire to both follow Iowa and enforce the seven-day window -- required by New Hampshire state law -- between its own primary and any "similar" election. (We're talking about you, Nevada.)
"Primary chicken," the pundits labeled it, and with Nevada showing no signs of backing down, New Hampshire did what it had to do to.
"We realize that holding our primary in the past may create some logistical problems for the candidates, as well as for some in the media," New Hampshire officials conceded in a press release. "And having a primary before the campaigns have really gotten into full swing up here could have a significant effect on the results.
"On the other hand, we win."
Officials pointed out that while the official state motto, a fixture on license plates for generations, is "Live Free or Die," the (italic)unofficial(italic) state motto -- "Nyah, Nyah-Nyah Nyah Nyah!" -- has become increasingly popular with state residents.
Left unclear by the announcement was the effect of the newly altered schedule on the prospects of the various GOP candidates. As a former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, Mitt Romney has long been expected to do well here, and has been counting on a strong New Hampshire performance to overcome any perception of weakness coming out of Iowa. By contrast, candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have hoped that a strong showing in Iowa could serve as a slingshot into New Hampshire and the contests to follow.
These careful calculations, needless to say, have now been tossed into the Dumpster by New Hampshire's latest move.
Left unclear, too, was just how results of the New Hampshire primary would be tabulated, given that the event itself would have "occurred" before any of the state's voters went anywhere near a polling place.
"They're still working on that," said a former state official with direct knowledge of the discussions. "They figure that if they can schedule the voting to happen in the past, then counting the votes in the past shouldn't be that big of a problem either."
"We want to be fair," this former official emphasized, "but we (italic)need(italic) to be first."
Nevada officials, meanwhile, were said to be considering moving their caucuses to sometime last month.