Nevada Republicans on Saturday cleared the way for New Hampshire to host the nation’s first GOP presidential primary Jan. 10 and avoid voting during the Christmas shopping season. “We’re happy; we’re relieved; we’re grateful,” New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald said after the vote by the Nevada GOP to move its caucuses to Feb. 4.
The spotlight now shifts to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who sets the date and who has considered a December primary to comply with state law. “Now,” Gardner said Saturday, “New Hampshire will make its decision soon based on the schedules of all the other states as required by our law.”
If Gardner puts his stamp on Jan. 10, New Hampshire Republicans would follow Iowa caucus-goers by a week and enjoy an 11-day buffer before South Carolina residents voted on Jan. 21.
New Hampshire law states the primary must be set at least seven days ahead of any “similar election,” and Gardner previously said the Nevada caucus is similar under the law, making Nevada’s previous Jan. 14 date unacceptable.
Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committeeman from Concord, said he “wouldn’t be a bit surprised” if Gardner set the primary date this week.
The cross-country dustup triggered by Florida moving up its primary to Jan. 31 resulted in several Republican candidates backing New Hampshire and boycotting campaigning in Nevada, including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
“We’re happy that Nevada has decided to back off and give New Hampshire and Iowa their space,” said Mike Biundo, Santorum’s national campaign director. Santorum will resume making campaign appearances in Nevada, Biundo said.