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New Hampshire primary at Christmastime? Election 2012 could get weird.

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Andrew Harrer/AP

(Read caption) Republican presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, right, listen as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Tuesday.

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New Hampshire voters might have to shop for holiday gifts and presidential candidates at the same time this year. Traditionally, they’ve been able to leisurely size up presidential-primary contenders at winter fairs and wait until the new year to make their final choice.

But this year, “Dec.” could stand for “Decision” in New Hampshire – with a primary vote possibly to be set as early as Dec. 6 in order for the state to maintain its first-in-the-nation status.

For anyone upset by the prospect of voting starting so early, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner issued a statement Wednesday equivalent to a teenager’s gesture for “Talk to the hand.” But in this case it’s “Talk to Nevada.”

“It’s really up to Nevada,” Mr. Gardner says. He goes on to urge the state to move its caucus date from Jan. 14 to Jan. 17, which would allow New Hampshire to hold its primary on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

New Hampshire has held the nation’s first primary since 1920, and since 1975, the tradition has been codified in state law, which currently mandates that its primary fall at least seven days before “similar elections that would challenge our traditional status,” Gardner writes.

Jan. 3 would have been a possibility, but Iowa has tentatively set its caucus for that day. (The Iowa caucus has not been deemed a “similar election” as the Nevada caucus has, so New Hampshire could hold its primary after Jan. 3).

Ruling out dates too close to the holidays, Gardner wrote in a statement (pdf) that Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 “are realistic options, and we have logistics in place to make either date happen if needed.”

There is no official response from Nevada yet. Perhaps the reply will be, “Talk to Florida.”

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