WASHINGTON – The Democratic National Committee continues to jockey with states regarding the order of 2008 presidential primaries, but efforts to move Nevada ahead of the traditional first primary state of New Hampshire appear to be dead.
It is up to the states to decide the schedule for the nominating elections, and New Hampshire has a law dating to 1977 that says its primary must be held "seven days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election." Iowa has a grandfathered exception.
The DNC has tried but failed to influence the order in the past years, going so far in at least one instance to threaten New Hampshire's secretary of state to try to get the state to alter its schedule. More on that below.
Republicans, by the way, have no calendar for presidential primaries and caucuses, and generally don't fight as much over who gets to go first.
For now, the DNC calendar envisions the Iowa caucuses to be held on Jan. 14, 2008, to be followed by Nevada on Jan. 14, New Hampshire's primary on Jan. 22 and South Carolina on Jan. 29.
None of these states has yet set its schedule. In late October or early November of this year, Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire secretary of state who is the sole authority on setting his state's primary calendar, will announce the schedule.
To broaden New Hampshire's message, Gov. John Lynch has already begun making public statements complaining that Nevada is unacceptable. Similar complaints are surfacing in Iowa.
Gardner has already told numerous outlets, including FOX News, that Nevada would be a "similar election" under the state statute, and therefore he has no option but to set New Hampshire's primary date earlier.
Iowa has a law on its books that says it must vote eight days before any other state. South Carolina has a law on its books that says it will go one week after New Hampshire. That would make it the second primary and first vote in the South.
Because of state laws, therefore, the DNC calendar can't be put into operation. The party, however, does have one trick up its sleeve, and that is to deny a seat at the party's convention to any state that violated its calendar, thus preventing those states a voice in the nomination.
Separately, they also have offered bonus delegates to states that agree to hold primaries later. This does not appear to be having an impact.
While the three traditional primary states and Nevada have not set their dates yet, the first Tuesday in February is getting jammed up with states now participating in Super Tuesday, the multi-state primary day. Several states are set by law to hold their primaries on the first Tuesday in February. They include Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Vermont.
In addition, several states — California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, South Dakota and Kansas — are legislating, with the support of their governors, to also hold their primaries on Feb. 5.
If any candidate emerged a big winner on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, that person could all but clinch the nomination in the first week of February.
Finally, a piece of history:
In 1983, New Hampshire refused to obey the DNC primary calendar because of the aforementioned state law requiring it to go first. A huge battle ensued lasting for months.
The chairman of the DNC's Compliance and Review Committee, along with two lawyers, trekked to New Hampshire to raise hell. They spent several hours with officials who say the DNC folks left "totally exasperated" at the Granite State's unwavering refusal to adhere to the DNC calendar.
New Hampshire's secretary of state at the time said the DNC compliance committee chairman hissed as the officials left: "Young man, you probably think you have a political career ahead of you, but if you don't comply with DNC rules, you will never get elected again."
The threat was followed up with three letters from the DNC promising that New Hampshire's delegates would not be seated at the convention — the same threat being repeated this year. A month before the convention, the DNC reversed itself and let New Hampshire's delegates be counted.
That secretary of state was Bill Gardner, who has been elected 16 times. The DNC operative who lost that battle was a little known politico out of San Francisco named Nancy Pelosi. She went on to become a congresswoman about four years later.
FOX News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.