State law requires New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner to hold the first-in-the-nation primary seven days before any "similar" contest; by tradition, New Hampshire does not consider Iowa's caucuses a "similar" contest, because actual delegates aren't awarded. But Nevada's, Gardner has said, represent a fundamental threat to New Hampshire's supremacy.
Most party strategists hoped Gardner could find a way to hold the primary on January 10, a week after Iowa's caucuses and 11 days before South Carolina's primary. But in a three-page statement posted on Gardner's website Thursday, he threatened to hold his state's primary as early as December 6.
Republicans in Concord and Washington have been working behind the scenes to come to a solution that would keep the primary in January. The boycott just may prove to be that solution.
Huntsman was the first to pledge to skip Nevada
if they held their contest early. So far, only Rep. Ron Paul
has refused, though state Republicans expect Mitt Romney, who won Nevada during the 2008 primary, and Rick Perry, who has support from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, to join the boycott. The New Hampshire Republicans have not heard back from Herman Cain's campaign.
The candidates' threat to spurn the caucuses represents yet another blow to the Nevada Republican Party, which has struggled to get its presidential contest on the map as an important milestone on the way to the GOP presidential nomination. Few contenders have visited or campaigned in the state, and local elected officials have mourned a wasted opportunity.
Republican candidates will meet at the Western Republican Leadership Conference for a debate this Tuesday, to be broadcast on CNN. But most assume that Romney -- who won more than half the vote in the 2008 caucuses -- is so far ahead in the state that it's not worth campaigning there.