ABC News’ Karen Travers Reports: The final piece of the 2008 primary season puzzle is in place.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner announced today that the state’s primary will be held on Jan. 8, preserving its status as "First in the Nation."
"New Hampshire has held the first presidential primary in the nation since 1920," Gardner said today at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H. "This tradition has served our nation well."
The announcement ends months of speculation as well as considerable maneuvering by party officials in other states. New Hampshire’s primary comes just five days after Iowa holds its caucuses, setting up a post-holiday campaign blitz for the Republican and Democratic candidates.
Gardner, who has the sole authority under state law to set New Hampshire’s primary date, delayed his announcement while he waited for the rest of the calendar to fall into place. New Hampshire state law requires that its primary be held seven days before any similar contest in another state.
The Michigan State Supreme Court ruled today that the state’s Jan. 15 presidential primary can go forward, paving the way for New Hampshire to finally settle on Jan. 8.
This is the earliest the New Hampshire primary has ever been held. Gardner even floated the idea of an unprecedented December primary in order to preserve the state’s premiere status. That possibility drew ire from Democratic and Republican party officials.
Gardner himself never seemed keen on the idea of a December primary, knowing that it could potentially render his state’s primary irrelevant in subsequent election cycles and start a slippery slope where other states would move to the calendar year before an election in order to be first.
"If we had to, to preserve the tradition, we would have to," Gardner said today of the potential for a December primary. "It was a possibility."
Gardner has become an increasingly significant and well-known power player in presidential politics.
Gardner is serving his 16th consecutive two-year term as Secretary of State and he literally wrote the book on the state’s primary and its significance in presidential electoral politics – "Why New Hampshire?: The First-In-The-Nation Primary State."
This election marks the eighth time Gardner has set a primary date and he frequently pointed out that he has never changed it once it was set.
The presidential primary calendar has been a work in progress for months, as states angled to hold their nominating contests earlier in the year in order to play a more prominent role in the selection of the Republican and Democratic nominees.
Today’s ruling from the Michigan State Supreme Court and the approval of the Michigan Republicans and Democrats were the final actions that Gardner needed to make his decision and announcement.
The Michigan state law establishing the Jan. 15 had been ruled unconstitutional by two lower courts in Michigan because it allowed the state’s political parties to keep track of voters and whether they took a Democratic or Republican primary ballot — but the public had no access to that information.
Here is where the 2008 primary and caucus calendar stands through Feb. 5:
Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses
Jan. 5 Wyoming Republican caucuses
Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary
Jan. 15 Michigan primary
Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses
Jan. 19 South Carolina Republican primary
Jan. 26 South Carolina Democratic primary
Jan. 29 Florida primary
Feb. 1-2 Maine Republican caucuses
Feb. 5 Alabama primary
Feb. 5 Alaska Democratic caucuses and Republican congressional district convention
Feb. 5 American Samoa Democratic caucuses
Feb. 5 Arizona primary
Feb. 5 Arkansas primary
Feb. 5 California primary
Feb. 5 Coorado caucuses
Feb. 5 Connecticut primary
Feb. 5 Delaware primary
Feb. 5 Georgia primary
Feb. 5 Idaho Democratic caucuses
Feb. 5 Illinois primary
Feb. 5 Kansas Democratic caucuses
Feb. 5 Massachusetts primary
Feb. 5 Minnesota primary
Feb. 5 Missouri primary
Feb. 5 Montana Republican caucuses
Feb. 5 New Jersey primary
Feb. 5 New Mexico Democratic primary
Feb. 5 New York primary
Feb. 5 North Dakota caucuses
Feb. 5 Oklahoma primary
Feb. 5 Tennessee primary
Feb. 5 Utaho primary
Feb. 5 West Virginia Republican convention
ABC News’ Teddy Davis contributed to this report.