New Hampshire set its earliest-ever presidential primary on Wednesday, Jan. 8
New Hampshire set its earliest-ever presidential primary on Wednesday, deciding on Jan. 8 and claiming its traditional spot as the nation's first in a nomination season pushed almost to New Year's Day of the election year. The decision ends months of speculation, including the possibility that the state might actually move its primary into December to keep its spot at the head of the line. Iowa, which chooses delegates with a caucus system, begins five days earlier on Jan. 3. Secretary of State Bill Gardner set New Hampshire's date hours after Michigan's Supreme Court said that state's primary could go forward as scheduled on Jan. 15, ending a court battle. New Hampshire waited to make sure Michigan wouldn't schedule caucuses even earlier. Iowa's caucuses have led the schedule for several decades, but New Hampshire has had the initial primary for much longer. The Iowa caucuses will start the nominating process on Jan. 3. Wyoming GOP county caucuses follow on Jan. 5, followed by New Hampshire on Jan. 8 and Michigan on Jan. 15. South Carolina Republicans and Nevada will vote on Jan. 19, South Carolina Democrats on Jan. 26 and Florida on Jan. 29. Both parties plan to penalize the states voting before Feb. 5 if their contests are binding; that includes New Hampshire and Michigan. Iowa and New Hampshire, two small, predominantly white states, traditionally hold disproportionate influence in presidential politics because of the enormous publicity their early contests get. Democrats tried to leaven the mix this time by adding early contests in Nevada and South Carolina, but Iowa and New Hampshire moved even earlier. Jan. 8 has drawbacks. It's only five days after Iowa, instead of the usual eight, and voters will be absorbed by the holidays in two of the three preceding weeks. In 2004, the primary was Jan. 27. Earlier Wednesday in Michigan, the state Supreme Court allowed both the Democrats and Republicans to hold their primary on Jan. 15. The court's 4-3 decision overturned lower court rulings that said the law setting up the primary was unconstitutional because it would let the state political parties keep track of voters' names and whether they took Democratic or GOP primary ballots but withhold that information from the public. By holding its primary so early - in violation of the national parties' rules - Michigan stands to lose half of its delegates to the Republican National Convention, reducing the number to 30, and all of its 156 delegates to the Democratic National Convention //By BEVERLEY WANG, Associated Press Writer .