New Hampshire Primary Set for Jan. 8

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.

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