New Hampshire's secretary of state says that it is "up to Nevada" whether his state is forced to move its presidential primary into December, with that vote possibly coming in just less than eight weeks.
Bill Gardner, who by state law has sole authority to set the date of New Hampshire's contest, also says in a memo released Wednesday that his state will not surrender its traditional first-in-the-nation position.
"Several aspiring Americans likely would not have become president if they weren't first able to make their case door-to-door, face-to-face, eye-to-eye with New Hampshire voters," Gardner writes. "It has allowed for candidates, regardless of national standing or financial capacity, to begin their launch into presidential politics by winning or doing well here."
The ordering of caucuses and primaries for the 2012 presidential election was disrupted by Florida's decision to hold its primary in late January, flouting the rules set by each national party that called for it to vote no earlier than March.
In response, South Carolina advanced its primary to Jan. 21. Nevada Republicans then moved their caucuses to Jan. 14.
Gardner, citing the requirements of his state's law, said that he could therefore not call New Hampshire's primary any earlier than Jan. 7, a Saturday. But the state has only ever held elections on Tuesday, and Iowa intends to hold its caucuses on Jan. 3, he said.
"If Nevada does not accept a date of Tuesday, January 17th or later for its caucus, it leaves New Hampshire no choice but to consider December of this year," he writes. "The dates of Tuesday, December 13th, and Tuesday, December 6th are realistic options, and we have logistics in place to make either date happen if needed."
National Republicans have made their opposition to such an early vote clear. One Republican official warned that if New Hampshire moved into 2011, its cherished status at the front of the pack could be in jeopardy in future presidential years.
"We've heard that before," Gardner said in response to such claims in an interview last week.
Monday marks the start of the two-week filing period for candidates to get on the New Hampshire primary ballot.
A Nevada GOP official said the party had no immediate response to Gardner's statement.