New Hampshire's presidential primary date is now set.
(CNN) - A major piece of the 2008 presidential nominating schedule fell into place Wednesday, when New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner announced that his state's first-in-the-nation primary will be held Jan. 8, just five days after the Iowa caucuses.
Gardner moved the primary up two weeks, from its initial tentative date of Jan. 22, to put New Hampshire ahead of other states that decided to hold primaries earlier to bolster their influence on the nominating process.
"I'm pleased to announce that another important American tradition will endure," Gardner said. "First and foremost, we were going to preserve the New Hampshire tradition, and this will let us do that."
New Hampshire has held the first spot in the presidential primary calendar since 1920. The distinction is enshrined in state law, and Gardner was authorized to change the date to preserve the Granite State's place at the head of the line.
In 2004, Iowa held its first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses on Jan. 19, followed by New Hampshire's primary on Jan. 27. But both states were forced to move their contests earlier this time to get ahead of other states that moved up their dates.
Iowa's caucuses will now be held on Jan. 3, two days before Wyoming Republicans meet to caucus. New Hampshire's new date puts it a week ahead of Michigan, which scheduled primaries for both parties on Jan. 15.
The Republican National Committee has announced that states that move primaries or caucuses to dates before Feb. 5 will be stripped of half of their allotted delegates to next year's national convention, a penalty that will apply to New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming. However, Iowa and Nevada won't be penalized because their caucuses aren't technically binding on selection of delegates.
Likewise, the Democratic National Committee has said it won't recognize delegates selected in the earlier primaries in Michigan and Florida. However, DNC rules already allowed Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to hold contests before Feb. 5.
The crush of states moving up their presidential nominating contests will result in a heavily front-loaded calendar next year that will see delegates selected in three dozen states before Valentine's Day.
The biggest bounty will come Feb. 5, when 23 states will hold contests, including a number of large, delegate-rich states such as California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Georgia.