The point is, Bill Gardner has seen a great number of states challenge New Hampshire's first in the nation status, but none has succeeded. The man is undefeated in keeping New Hampshire first since he -- the only secretary of state in New Hampshire during the time -- was given the authority to set the date in 1976 (based on the 1975 law cited in the segment below). If only for that reason alone, it might be worth taking Gardner at his word that New Hampshire will get what it wants: a seven day buffer between it and any subsequent contest.
Part of it, as I have mentioned, is that there is a collective desire on the part of the early, exempt states to avoid pushing this into December. To cross that barrier means to put the privileged positions the early states enjoy even further under microscope when the next round of delegate selection rules is crafted starting during the conventions next year, but in earnest during 2014. None wants to be the one to push the calendar into December, but I take Gardner at his word that he will do that if that is the only way to preserve New Hampshire's status. I would contend that it is a bluff, but we have never and probably will never know because when these sorts of conflicts arise, New Hampshire is not the one to blink.
New Hampshire is good at what it does. No, not necessarily in terms of picking nominees or presidents, but in quickly and flawlessly staging early presidential primaries. There is likely not another state that can more quickly get the infrastructure in place to hold a presidential primary. That ability coupled with the flexibility of the date decision resting in the hands of just one actor has made New Hampshire an unparalleled force at the front of the presidential nomination process throughout the post-reform era and stretching back further still.
New Hampshire can play chicken, then, like no other. They can wait and wait and wait, all the time knowing that they can put a primary together quicker than their competition and run it more smoothly. That places a great deal of pressure on other states. Not only is the clock running down on them to decide, but they too have to get a presidential nomination contest planned, prepped and ready to go.
And in this particular instance, Gardner and New Hampshire have a trump card. They know full well that every second is going to count for the Nevada Republican Party based on the party's mismanaged caucus convention system four years ago. South Carolina was on the same date and even with the candidates' attention on the Palmetto state, Nevada had problems in its trial run as an early state contest. Those problems persisted throughout the process. Ron Paul, who finished second at the precinct level, had enough delegates make it through to completely disrupt the 2008 state convention. It was cancelled and the state party's central committee chose the delegates to attend the convention in St. Paul. And as of a month and a half ago, the planning was still underway for 2012.
Not wanting to repeat that and not knowing when the caucuses will ultimately be held will weigh heavily on the Nevada Republican Party between now and their October 22 central committee meeting. And Bill Gardner will still be talking about going in December then. That would give Nevada Republicans less than two months to prepare for their caucuses if they are to go on the Saturday following New Hampshire. That won't be ideal for them.
...and Bill Gardner knows it.
1 Below is the Face to Face show from October 3. The segment in which Bill Gardner appears is right after the opening and some other news.