The AP reports that New Hampshire may move its primary ahead of Nevada. But will it pull a fast one on Iowa?
Bill Gardner is a modest man with an awesome power: the ability to set the date of the nation's earliest presidential primary.
In 31 years as New Hampshire's secretary of state, Gardner has not hesitated to upset the best-laid plans of other states or national political parties by moving up the date _ and he's poised to do it again in 2008.
The Democratic National Committee wants to squeeze Nevada between Iowa's leadoff caucuses on Jan. 14 and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 22, but state law requires Gardner to hold the primary on a Tuesday a week or more before any "similar election."
Even if Gardner decides the Nevada caucuses don't meet that definition, he can set the primary as early as he wants, thanks to the "or more" clause.
In past election cycles, Gardner has announced the date as late as December, after other states have set their calendars. In 2008, he is widely expected to leapfrog six days ahead of Iowa, which would be Jan. 8, but no one knows for sure.
"His office can do an election in three weeks, as long as they have the ballot prepared. No other state can come close," said Democratic state Rep. Jim Splaine, who sponsored laws giving Gardner his power. "That's the threat that they have to worry about."
Whatever his decision, it will stem from his sense of history and his passionate conviction that the state's tradition of citizen involvement in government gives candidates with little money or national recognition a chance, while requiring those with early visibility to answer voters' questions at unscripted events.