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With Ariz. move, New Year's in Des Moines less likely

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The presidential primary and caucus calendar is still far from set, despite Arizona’s decision yesterday to keep its primary date at the end of February.

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) had been toying with the idea of pushing her state’s date up to January, but decided to keep it on Feb. 28 -- the same day South Carolina’s primary is currently scheduled for.

"Arizona will be a player in determining our nation’s next president,” Brewer said in a statement Monday.

But the February date is still a week before the RNC rules dictate states other than the four early voting states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada -- are allowed to hold primaries and will force the voting calendar to shift.

"The decision of Arizona in and of itself does not end the potential of early states moving up, because there's still other states,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said. “It is a piece of the puzzle.”

Those other states Gardner is referring too include Florida, Michigan, and Georgia, among others. 

Florida has expressed immense interest starting in the last cycle to play a key role in the nomination process. The Republican Party of Florida spokesman, Brian Hughes, acknowledged that this year, Florida would aim to be fifth on the calendar.

“Florida deserves its own day, and a day that reflects how important Florida ultimately is to not just how the nominee is chosen, but also how we win the White House back,” Hughes said.

But being fifth would require Florida to also move ahead of the RNC sanctioned March 6th date and moving up will only come with penalties. Penalties, Hughes notes, that would be a big disappointment since the state is hosting the Republican National Convention this cycle.

“The rules are the rules, and any state, like Arizona or Florida or Michigan, that violates the rules will lose 50% of the delegates,” an RNC spokesperson told NBC News. 

A similar situation took place back during the 2008 election, when Florida and Michigan were penalized for moving up in the schedule.

“We remain hopeful that everything will remain in tact with the calendar,” the RNC spokesperson said. “We are going to work with the remaining states to make sure they are within our rules.” 

But shifting of dates will surely continue as the South Carolina GOP chairman has already vowed to move its primary forward in light of Arizona’s primary being on the same day in order to not dilute the Palmetto State’s position.

Chairman Chad Connelly warned other states that his state would leapfrog over any additional states that push its primary forward.

The first contest, in Iowa, is currently scheduled for Feb. 6th, and Iowa vows to remain the first-in-the-nation caucus no matter what other states decide.

“It’s a little too soon to tell the ultimate decision to move our date,” said Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. “But I certainly hope Iowans are not wrapping Christmas presents and caucus-going.”

Gardner, whose New Hampshire primary traditionally comes eight days after the Iowa caucuses, added, "It is a little less likely that reporters will have to spend New Years in Des Moines. But it's not over yet."

States have until Oct. 1 to inform the RNC of their state’s primary or caucus date and how they will a lot their delegates. But, Republican sources acknowledge that the four early voting states will probably wait and make sure that other states are locked in before they set their dates.

NBC's Jo Ling Kent, Andrew Rafferty, and Ali Weinberg contributed to this report.