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N.H.: Primary Status Written in Granite

New Hampshire Democrats are up in arms over the possibility that the national party's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling will schedule one or more caucuses between the traditional Iowa caucuses and the Granite State primary in 2008.

Just three weeks before the commission is set to meet in Washington, D.C, to announce its final recommendations on the Democrats' primary calendar, former New Hampshire state party chief Joe Keefe penned a letter to co-chairs David Price (N.C.) and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman insisting that any change in N.H.'s first-in-the-nation primary status would be met with stern opposition, a statement endorsed by current party chair Kathy Sullivan among others, according to John DiStaso -- a top political reporter in the state.

Keefe wrote that the commission's decision-making process "seems to have devolved into a concentrated effort to undermine New Hampshire's historic first-in-the-nation primary, which has the potential to create chaos in the calendar and jeopardize Democratic chances of winning the White House in 2008."

He went on to equate the importance of New Hampshire's presidential primary with the Kentucky Derby and the Statue of Liberty. "We established it here, and it has not only served the nation well since 1920, but has become woven into the fabric of our state and its people," wrote Keefe. "We will not part with it."

That strong stance comes as many insiders, both on and off the primary commission, seemed increasingly confident a deal would be reached to add several caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire -- a move that would satisfy voices pushing for more geographic and ethnic diversity in the early presidential voting while also preserving New Hampshire's status as the first primary state.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin (D), one of the main opponents of the Granite's State coveted first-in-the-nation status and a member of the primary commission, said today, "It is not surprising that [N.H. officials] want to maintain the status quo that gives them such a huge advantage over the entire process."

Sources close to the commission suggest that the Keefe letter is an effort to present a hard-line stance ahead a final decision on the primary calendar.  Most believe that, regardless of what New Hampshire says, the votes are there to add a two caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire -- one in a southern state and one in a western state.

It's important to remember that the commission's decision is not final; it passes its "recommendations" on to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee and party Chairman Howard Dean. Therefore, New Hampshire's strategy may be aimed more at appealing to Dean -- former governor of N.H.'s neighbor to the west, Vermont -- than at swaying votes on the commission.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 17, 2005; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party  
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