Washington (CNN) - With the battle between Nevada and New Hampshire over primary and caucus dates apparently settled, and the calendar nearly set in stone, the question is which GOP presidential candidate or candidates benefit from the accelerated start of voting.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner could announce as early as this week the date of the Granite State's 'first in the nation' primary. Gardner's expected to hold his state's contest on January 10, now that Nevada Republicans announced on Saturday that they would push back the date of their caucuses to February 4.
The first votes will come in Iowa, when that state holds its caucuses on Tuesday January 3, followed by New Hampshire most likely one week later. South Carolina, which is holding its primary on January 21, will once again be the first state in the south to vote, followed ten days later by Florida on January 31.
If much of this sounds familiar, it is. Four years ago the primary and caucus calendar was similarly pushed forward with Iowa leading off just after New Year's Day.
The general consensus is that the accelerated calendar helps the candidates with the strongest campaign structures and the most money in the bank.
"If you are the focus of attention at a hanging, you would rather it be later not sooner. Those candidates who are behind now, would rather delay these caucuses and primaries as long as possible. But if you are ahead in the polls, you want to wake up next morning and see the calendar say Election Day," says GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos.
Republican strategist Rich Galen says the fast-forwarding of the calendar will "help both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, since they have the most cash on hand."
"The accelerated calendar helps those campaigns that have built strong campaign organizations in the early primary states. There's little doubt that the Romney campaign has impressive structures in those states, structures that were being built in 2007. Will that be enough? It's hard to say, but any inch of advantage is important," says GOP strategist Doug Heye, the former communications director for the Republican National Committee.
But it's not just the early start. It's also the crowded January calendar.
"Myth holds that there was a time that you could do well enough in Iowa to raise enough money to get to New Hampshire, then raise enough to go on to Delaware and South Carolina. But, this year we have four primaries within 28 days starting with Iowa and ending with Florida and there simply isn't time to build an organization state-by-state. You have to start early and be prepared to be on the ground, and on the air, straight through from early December to the end of January," adds Galen, who advised Fred Thompson during his 2008 GOP presidential bid, and who is the author of Mullings.com, an online column.
But as this is campaign politics, the only constant is change. So don't count on the candidates who are the front-runners in October to always be the ones on top by the end of January.
"The brutal part of the campaign is just about to start. Candidates who now think they are ahead may not be so in a few months. Then, the whole calculation about moving up the primaries could change," adds Castellanos, who was a top media adviser to the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and to Romney's 2008 bid, but is not taking sides this cycle.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PSteinhauserCNN
Who does it help? The people! We do not have to endure anymore political garbage. The 2012 election has been in the news since January 2009. What has that done to help? Made people more entrenched to loathe politics, politicians, pundit, and politico's.
But "accelerated" you mean "stretched." The GOP has found a way to end governing for a full year so we're in long-term campaign mode...so happy our leaders are moving to become lame-ducks as fast as possible while the nation struggles with jobs.
Too much "ridiculous" Republican news!!! Jeez!
Really,really to get to vote that much earlier no matter what happens to your party because of it for what? To say you are the first to vote for your state for your party that you are willing to damage,just to say all that is it really worth all that.
The voters would benefit if everyone could vote the same day.
Mitt Romney is the best candidate to take on Barack Obama.
In this day and age, we don't need 18 months to vet a candidate. Why can't we just push all primaries to within 3 months of election day? (It would be nice if the politicians actually did their jobs during election years!)