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New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status in jeopardy

If New Hampshire decides to move its primary too early, that could be the end of New Hampshire's protected first-in-the-nation primary status, a top Republican observer warned.

"There are some pised-off people," the source said.

New Hampshire could easily select Tuesday, Jan. 10th, as its date, the source said, disputing the notion that Nevada is a "similar" election, as New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner contended yesterday. New Hampshire state law says its primary must be held seven days before a "similar" election -- and with Nevada’s move, that means the latest New Hampshire could go is on Saturday, Jan. 7. But given that the New Hampshire primary is typically held on a Tuesday, that would mean Jan. 3.

Aside from being a caucus, Nevada is expected to garner less attention than the other three carve-out states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The candidates have campaigned in the Silver State far less than the other three, and Mitt Romney is expected to win there, given that in 2008, for example, more than one-in-four -- 26% -- voters in the GOP primary were Mormon.

The observer added there is precedent for New Hampshire going less than seven days before another election. In 2000, for example, Delaware set its date for Feb. 5, and New Hampshire went on Feb. 1. In 1996, once again, Delaware and New Hampshire were just four days apart with New Hampshire going on Feb. 20 and Delaware Feb. 24.

Unlike in other states, Gardner has the power to set the date unilaterally. He has indicated he is in no rush to select a date and has threatened that the Granite State could go as early as December. If it were to go Jan. 3, it would almost certainly push Iowa to the last week of December, perhaps Dec. 28 or 29.

There's also the possibility that Iowa selects its date first. There's buzz building that if Gardner waits too long, Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn could push for Iowa to go Jan. 5th., "and then what does Gardner do?" the source asked.

Another thing to consider is that, by law, military ballots have to be printed 60 days before an election and "the further [Gardner] moves that back, the further problem he has."

"There are people in New Hampshire talking to him," the source said. "As soon as this thing goes into December, people on the [RNC's] 168-[member committee]" are going to be calling for an end to New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status and could be "brought to a head at the convention. … There's a growing sense that this whole thing needs to be relooked at."

The source added, "Gardner doesn't want to have the legacy that he had the last first-in-the-nation primary."