Rare are the times that New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner says much of anything about the presidential primary in the Granite state. ...unless or until, of course, he sets the date for the contest. It was more earth-shattering, then, that he gave a recent interview with Shira Shoenberg of The Boston Globe on the subject, than it was that Gardner indicated that February 14 is not all that likely to be the date on which the New Hampshire primary will be held in 2012.
Indeed, that date always depended upon other, non-exempt states moving their primaries and caucuses in line with the guidelines for delegate selection. And that's something FHQ has been saying was a low probability since last year because of all the states that had to move to comply with national party rules. The list of states has been whittled down, but there remains a handful of states that may serve as a threat to New Hampshire or any of the other early states. Again, as I said earlier this week, the most likely scenario will see the four earliest states in January with a smattering of rogue, non-compliant states mostly in February but perhaps slipping into the end of January. Every other state will follow on or after March 6.
On another note, the mention of Michigan, Florida, Arizona and now Missouri being possible threats to New Hampshire is not new, but the talk of of West Virginia and Wisconsin is. The legislature in Wisconsin has a bill that has passed the Senate and another that originated in the Assembly before the lower chamber now, but those probably will not get a vote until later in the summer. There is, however, bipartisan support for the legislation and the Republican majority in both chambers has sponsored it. As for West Virginia, there was talk out of the Mountain state earlier in the week that indicated at least some likelihood of West Virginia Republicans adopting a convention system beginning with January county caucuses and ending with a Super Tuesday (March 6) state convention. This is the same system Mountain state Republicans used in 2008. The sticking point for New Hampshire in the West Virginia proposal is the January 24 county caucuses. But those caucuses only select non-binding slates of delegates to move on to the state convention. With that said, in 2008, West Virginia Republicans held county caucus meetings across a two week period as opposed to one day. That may give New Hampshire Secretary of State Gardner pause. After all, Iowa's caucuses are similarly non-binding, as are the February 7 caucuses in Minnesota.
The main point remains that none of this is really a surprise. Given the lack of any real meaningful penalties on non-compliant states, there were bound to be a few states -- even beyond Florida and Michigan -- that would challenge the national parties (especially the RNC). In that environment, New Hampshire was a near certainty to move up ahead of the proposed February 14 date.