I'll leave it to others to prognosticate on what the Union Leader's endorsement of Newt Gingrich means for the New Hampshire primary. (Two words suffice as caution against putting undue weight on the Union Leader's prowess in picking winners: Pete Dupont.) But the endorsement offers more evidence for something I've been mulling for several weeks now: the declining legitimacy of the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. There was a time not so long ago when I happily defended the prerogative of Iowa and New Hampshire to claim a hugely outsized role in picking presidential nominees.
Mitt Romney has gone to such lengths to lock up New Hampshire that the first in the nation primary is looking to be something of a snooze-fest this year, unless Jon Huntsman gets his father to open up the family vault wider or Newt Gingrich's call for 9-year-olds to become paid school janitors strikes a surprising chord with the good people of Peterborough and Londonderry. But just because Romney is getting the state GOP establishment to line up behind him -- Kelly Ayotte! Charlie Bass!
Now that Nevada has backed down from its plan to hold its caucuses January 14, the path is clear for New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner to set his state's primary for January 10 without violating the state's self-decreed law that there be no "similar contest" within a week of the primary. Once again, New Hampshire has triumphed in the game of chicken, after having once again gone so far as to threaten the nuclear option -- moving the primary forward before Christmas.
The window for Chris Christie to climb through just got even narrower (and no, that's not a catty reference -- I'm not joining this debate just yet.) The South Carolina Republican Party announced today that, in reaction to Florida moving its primary to Jan. 31, the state would hold its primary on Saturday, Jan. 21. This means that the nominating calendar is going to be pushed back even earlier than many were predicting after Florida's move.
They better start laying in the Champagne in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, because it looks like it's going to be another holiday season in Iowa for the political circus. Florida Republicans today announced that they would, as they'd been threatening to, move their primary to January 31st. This will push the traditional first four states earlier into January, with one plausible scenario putting the Iowa caucuses on January 9, the New Hampshire primary on January 17, the Nevada caucuses on January 21 and the South Carolina primary January 28.