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States Seek Earlier Primaries, Greater Clout

States are looking to move up their primaries and caucuses in the 2008 presidential race in order to attract the candidates and have them address regional issues. Political analysts discuss the push to be at the front of the line.

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    The modern tradition in American politics has Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls spending much of their time in Iowa and New Hampshire. In elections past, victories in either of these earliest contests helped catapult candidates to their party's nomination.

    For 2008, Nevada moved quickly to insert itself in between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in January, joining South Carolina as one of the four firsts in the nation. In reaction, party activists in several other states, angling to play a bigger role in choosing the eventual nominees, have persuaded their legislatures to move their primary dates up, too.

    California and New York, two blockbuster states on the electoral map, have advanced their primaries to next February 5th, a day which is fast becoming a new Super Tuesday of contests. Nine states have already moved their primaries and caucuses to that day, and 15 more are considering joining them.

    But late last week, the Florida state legislature surprised the political establishment when it voted to leapfrog the pack and move its primary date from March to January 29th, the same day as South Carolina. Now, South Carolina officials say they're considering advancing their primary date even earlier.

    And in New Hampshire, where state law says that its primary is to be the first in the nation, officials have threatened to move its January 22nd contest into December of this year. Iowa officials say they might move their January 14th caucus earlier, too.

    Nowhere is all this activity being watched more closely than among the 18 declared presidential candidates, who are busy calculating and recalculating where to compete, where to spend money, and when to start the costly process of television advertising.