“Whatever it takes.”
That’s what New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner says he’ll do to preserve the sanctity of the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
The calendar puts the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, Feb. 14, giving someone a nice Valentine’s Day.
But Florida has pulled a Sarah Palin and gone rogue, moving outside the GOP established election calendar in an effort to hold its primary on Jan. 31.
It wants the attention — and pride — of a primary that holds more influence over the nomination if it’s held earlier in the schedule.
But Gardner told the Portsmouth Rotary Club on Thursday that his actions to do “whatever it takes” will be dictated by state law that requires New Hampshire’s presidential primary be held at least seven days prior to any others.
He’s got the backing of New Hampshire Democrat and Republican leaders who also want to protect the New Hampshire tradition.
But the burden of lobbying Florida weighs more heavily on the GOP side since it is the GOP-controlled Legislature there that’s trying to cut in on the primary calendar line.
Gardener also has the backing of presidential candidates … at least some of them.
Michelle Bachmann passed on the chance to come out in support for the traditional calendar: Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire then South Carolina primaries.
She either doesn’t want to offend Florida, or she doesn’t care to endorse a tradition that includes New Hampshire, which she’s all but given up on in her effort to get the GOP nomination.
She doesn’t need to back the Granite State knowing the Granite State likely won’t back her for the nomination.
Rick Santorum backs the traditional line-up.
These early states have the deserved reputation of testing candidates and ensuring the emergence of the strongest Republican presidential nominee. The Republican Parties in the early states can count on my support to help maintain their vital role in the process. And I ask the other Republican candidates to have the courage to join me in supporting the early states.” he said in a statement.
Mitt Romney doesn’t want to see the schedule changed because the Granite State is important to him: He’s consistently led in polls here, usually by wide margins.
“This is a state more important to me than the average state in this early process,” he said to the Eagle-Tribune this week.
Campaigns, he said, will be forced into advertising buys during the Christmas season, which they’ll have to pay a higher rate for in order to get in front of prime time eyeballs.
He told the Eagle-Tribune: “If (New Hampshire) goes to December, I think the challenge is we will be running our ads during the Christmas shopping season, which means they will be very expensive.”
This same type of gamesmanship from Florida isn’t new. The same desire four years ago to butt in line forced Iowa to hold its caucuses on Jan. 3 and New Hampshire into holding its primary on Jan. 8, 2008.
The question is whether New Hampshire will be sanctioned since it is essentially violating national party rules by going earlier than the established schedule.
The sanctions mean a 50 percent cut in the number of delegates we can elect to the national convention.
But Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina shouldn’t be sanctioned for trying to preserve the traditional line-up that’s being threatened by upstart Florida.
Paul Briand is an editor/blogger for the non-partisan, non-profit Live Free or Die Association. Check out the LFDA’s complete coverage of the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary here.