CONCORD, N.H. -- After much political wrangling and calendar jockeying, the last piece of the presidential primary puzzle was finally put into place. The New Hampshire primary has been set for Jan. 10, one week after the Iowa caucuses, according to Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
"I was sort of on the edge of a cliff," Gardner said. "I was hoping if I had to move there would be a puddle of water to jump into."
The Jan. 10 date was widely expected. The way was cleared for New Hampshire to set its date after Nevada moved back to Feb. 4. Gardner had threatened to move the New Hampshire primary to as early as December of this year. Today, Gardner claimed his counterparts in Iowa and South Carolina were prepared to appear in New Hampshire to "stand in solidarity" with the Granite State, before Nevada pushed its date back.
"I want to point out, our friends in Iowa and South Carolina, particularly the state Republican chairs there," Gardner said, "they were very helpful at the critical time during the last month and ... demonstrating the solidarity of the early states. Both were willing to come here to demonstrate solidarity, if necessary."
According to state law, Gardner -- who has unilateral authority to set the date -- must schedule the primary at least seven days before any "similar event." But in 1996 and 2000, New Hampshire went just four days before Delaware. Many have argued Nevada was not a similar contest, because it is a caucus.
But shrugging off the controversy surrounding the date, Gardner said this wasn't even the most difficult decision he's had to make in setting the date, since he's been doing so since 1976.
"In my opinion, the most difficult was 1984," he said, adding, "We've been closer, if you consider the cliff being going the year before."
"I thought after the next cycle we wouldn't have to face this a again and I'm hopeful in the next cycle we won't have to face this again, but there is no simple answer."
Gardner also praised pressure brought on Nevada by the Republican National Committee.
"What they demonstrated, they were willing to do," he said, "help in that process. It was a good thing."
And, of course, he stressed the importance of the Granite State's primary.
"No one has finished below second and become president since we've started listing the candidates," Gardner said.