Stateline Story

States' Presidential Primary Shuffle Begins Again

Just like four years ago, states are playing a game of electoral leapfrog as they prepare for the 2012 presidential election, moving up their primary and caucus dates in an effort to gain more influence over the nominating process.

This time, it is Republicans and not Democrats who may face a lengthy nomination battle, with a host of candidates — from Texas Governor Rick Perry to businessman Herman Cain and, potentially, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — vying for the chance to unseat President Obama next November. With the field very much unsettled, Republicans want to ensure that their states play a pivotal role in deciding who the nominee will be.

On Monday (October 3), GOP officials in Nevada and South Carolina announced they would move up their presidential nominating contests to stay ahead of Florida, where Republicans announced a new primary date of January 31 last week. South Carolina will hold its primary on January 21 , and while Nevada has not yet settled on a date , many Nevada Republicans want to stay ahead of South Carolina.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary in the nation, Secretary of State Bill Gardner said that a December date " remains a real possibility " after the action by Nevada and South Carolina.

For Republicans, it is risky to move up state elections because it runs afoul of party rules that have tried to exert some control over the nominating process. If states decide to vote too soon, they face the loss of delegates to the Republican National Convention . There are also political considerations: if New Jersey Governor Christie decides to enter the race at this late stage, for example, he will have a very narrow window in which to organize a national campaign.

So far, however, those considerations have not stopped the early shuffling. Florida moved up its date in violation of GOP rules and sacrificed half of its GOP delegates in the process. Nevada and South Carolina Republicans also face the loss of half of their delegates, unless a compromise with party leaders can be worked out.