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N.H. Settles on Jan. 8 Primary Date

The decision comes after Michigan’s state Supreme Court decided its Jan. 15 presidential primary can go forward, a boost to the state’s bid move up its spot in the 2008 state-by-state nominating calendar.

The announcement ended months of speculation over when the state’s long-standing early election contest would be held. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner waited for the Michigan court to rule before making a final scheduling decision.

Gardner, who warned at one point that the primary could happen as early as December, revealed the primary date at a news conference in Concord, the state capital.

“This tradition has served our nation well, as decades of candidates and presidents have said,” Gardner said, according to the Associated Press.

Iowa’s caucuses have led the way for decades, but New Hampshire has had the nation’s first primary for even longer, since 1920. The new date is still the earliest ever for the primary.

A Michigan primary on Jan. 15 would put the state behind only Iowa’s caucuses on Jan. 3, Wyoming’s caucuses on Jan. 5 and New Hampshire’s primary on Jan. 8.

The Michigan court’s ruling should clear the way for the Republican and Democratic parties to take part in the Jan. 15 primary. Both parties have filed letters with the secretary of state stating their intention to hold to that schedule.

In a 4-3 decision Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings that found the law setting up the primary unconstitutional because it would let the state political parties keep track of voters’ names and whether they took Democratic or GOP primary ballots but withhold that information from the public, the AP reported.

But by holding its primary so early, and violating national parties’ rules, Michigan is now positioned to lose half of its delegates to the Republican National Convention, reducing the number to 30, and all of its 156 delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Democrats in Michigan have kept open the possibility of choosing their presidential favorite through a party caucus, even if the primary is held, news agencies reported.

The national parties have imposed similar penalties on other states as party leaders have struggled to regain control of a chaotic nominating schedule.

New Hampshire stands to lose half of its delegates to the GOP convention, reducing the number to 12, because it moved earlier than party rules allow. Democratic rules allow New Hampshire to hold an early primary, so the state will keep all of its 30 delegates to the Democratic convention.