New Hampshire formally set their primary day to January 10 today, thus basically ending the process of setting the calendar of primaries and caucuses for the 2012 presidential cycle, certainly for the early events.
I really haven't been talking about this much at all...I've long had an interest in it, but Josh Putnam is such a category-killer on the subject that I haven't found much else to say other than to remind everyone to go to him for information and analysis.
Basically, it looks to me that the GOP got what they wanted. Nothing in 2011, of course. They preserved the Iowa/New Hampshire/South Carolina kickoff. They successfully moved Super Tuesday back to March (6th, from February 5 in 2008)) and ratcheted it down quite a bit from 2008. That seems to be what they wanted, and they got all of it.
Sure, it starts in January instead of February, but there's little harm done there (and in fact, I'd say it's a plus for the party, but who knows?). I'm happy with it because I've been against a de facto national primary, and the GOP appears to have seriously broken it up for now.
I don't know whether Josh made this point already, but what really helped the Republicans is that no one in that party actually cares at all about Nevada going early. That's not true on the Democratic side, where Latinos and African Americans care a lot about protecting the early scheduling of Nevada and South Carolina, and in fact have long objected to the lack of ethnic diversity in Iowa and New Hampshire. As it worked out, the Democratic schedule does in fact preserve both in front of Florida by decoupling them from the GOP versions in those two states (South Carolina has long -- always? -- been different for the two parties, but they both had Nevada on the same day in 2008).
Of course, there's no way of knowing what will happen next time around, but it's possible to see a bit of stability emerging, for a while at least, with the four exception states leading off (or three on the GOP side), and the parties perhaps next time around reaching an accommodation with Florida to make it the kickoff state for the rest of the campaign.
Not that the long-term reasons for states to try to frontload, or the lack of ability by the national parties to prevent it, have changed. My guess? The pressure away from frontloading will stay relatively minimal until the next time that Iowa and New Hampshire are perceived to have locked up the nomination by themselves. The more that happens, the more people find the sequential system unacceptable; when the results are spread out so that many or all states have meaningful contests, they're less likely to care about sequencing the next time around. Of course, in my view a whole lot of this is illusion, anyway, with party actors across the nation doing a lot to decide the nomination before the voters get involved. But that's certainly not how everyone sees it.