Nevada has now carved out its spot on the calendar and has forced Gardner's hand. The choices facing New Hampshire: hold a non-Tuesday primary -- likely on January 7 -- or move to the next available Tuesday slot seven or more days before Nevada -- January 3. The former allows Iowa to slide into a January 2 or 3 date while the latter forces Iowa into December.
Here's the narrowed choice set originally put forth here:
December 26-30 or January 2 or 3: IowaFHQ has talked a great deal about the power Bill Gardner has in New Hampshire concerning the setting of the presidential primary date. He still has that power tonight, but he also has a hugely consequential decision to make now. No, the decision doesn't necessarily affect the candidates or the campaign overall, but depending on the decision, it could threaten the favored position New Hampshire enjoys now in future cycles.
January 3, 7: New Hampshire
January 14: Nevada
I'll throw out one more scenario. Now that we are at the threshold of 2011 primaries, why not? If New Hampshire, and more importantly its position on the calendar, is likely to face increased scrutiny because of this move,2 why not go down in a blaze of glory? Why not go out Thelma and Louise style with Iowa in December? And not late, holiday season December. FHQ is talking about that always-considered-completely-ridiculous-Florida-on-January-3 scenario with Iowa on December 5 and New Hampshire eight days later on December 13.
Iowa on January 3 and New Hampshire on January 7 may be more likely, but I'm not ready to discount December scenarios -- even the doomsday scenario -- just yet.
1 Here's the full press release from the Nevada Republican Party:
Nevada Presidential Caucus Moved to January 14th
Las Vegas – Nevada’s First in the West Presidential Caucus has officially been moved to January 14th, 2012, Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian announced today.
“I’m extremely pleased to finally have a firm date for a caucus that will greatly improve Nevada’s standing and relevance in terms of national politics,” Tarkanian said. “By establishing this date, we maintain Nevada’s standing as one of the first four ‘carve-out’ states and as the very first in the west.”
The date of Nevada’s caucus was thrown into turmoil when Florida, in violation of agreed-upon rules, moved its primary to January, causing the four carve-out early states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada to scramble to find new dates to maintain the agreed-upon order.
“This is absolutely in the best interest of our state,” Tarkanian said. “We are in the process of creating a caucus that will energize Republicans throughout Nevada and the west, and allow us to play a major role in deciding who will carry the fight to unseat Barack Obama and his destructive policies.”
2 Yes, there will be plenty of blame Florida talk from the early four states, but that will only go so far if the start to primary season gets pushed into December.