Wyoming a Better 'Barometer' for GOP? on the Heels of the N.H. Primary, County Conventions Could Play a Role in the '08 Race

Article excerpt

Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Give Wyoming Republicans credit for chutzpah in the scramble to hold the earliest possible 2008 presidential primary.

Instead of setting an election date, the Wyoming Republican Party has adopted a policy stating that it will hold its county conventions on the same date as the New Hampshire primary.

For 80 years, New Hampshire has held the nation's first primary, right after the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire law requires the secretary of state to set the primary date seven days before "any similar event."

By piggybacking on New Hampshire's primary, Wyoming Republicans are hoping to grab a bit of the presidential-election spotlight. So far, it seems to be working, said Tom Sansonetti, the Cheyenne lawyer and longtime Republican activist who devised the plan.

"We're already getting attention that we've never had," said Mr. Sansonetti, who serves as the state's 2008 county convention coordinator.

He said Republican hopefuls Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sent representatives to the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee meeting on May 5.

That's not exactly the kind of star treatment that would pass muster in New Hampshire, but

it's not bad for Wyoming, the nation's least populous state and therefore the state perhaps least likely to glimpse a presidential contender at any point during the election cycle.

New Hampshire officials have been outwardly blase about the Wyoming gambit. The state has tentatively set Jan. 22 as its primary date, but Secretary of State William Gardner is prepared to move it up to this year if necessary to protect the state's advantage.

"Historically, there have been many states that have attempted to challenge our state's status as first in the nation, and we've always remained first," New Hampshire Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said.

Whether the state can shake Wyoming remains to be seen. If not, New Hampshire officials may have some wiggle room in that Wyoming holds county conventions to select a presidential candidate, not a primary. …