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S.C. GOP sets primary for Jan. 21

/ Source: and NBC News

South Carolina Republicans scheduled their influential presidential primary for Saturday, Jan. 21, moving the contest to an earlier-than-planned date in reaction to the Florida's decision to move up the date of its own primary.

S.C. GOP Chairman Chad Connelly announced the date of the Palmetto State's primary on Monday following a week of political drama culminating in Florida's announcement that it would host its primary on Tuesday, Jan. 31. That decision, in violation of rules established by the Republican National Committee, sought to leapfrog traditional, earlier primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Florida's decision has prompted those states, along with South Carolina, to revisit the planned primary calendar in order to maintain their role in the nominating process.

"South Carolina Republicans have a thirty year track record of picking the eventual Republican Presidential nominee," Connelly said in a statement. "We will continue that historic tradition on January 21, 2012."

The end result of the turmoil will likely be a primary process that begins in Iowa in early January, possibly shortly after the new year. Initial rules adopted by the RNC had called for no state to hold its primary earlier than the first Tuesday in March, with the exception of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina; those states were barred from holding their contests before Feb. 1.

South Carolina's primary had initially been scheduled for Feb. 28.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said Monday that he would wait for Nevada to act before announcing the date of the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary.

"We will wait and see, and do what we need to do, which means waiting for Nevada," he told NBC News. "We will do this piece by piece, and see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together."

Gardner indicated that he would not set the date of New Hampshire's primary immediately though he again indicated Monday that it's possible the state would host its contest as early as late December.

NBC News’ Ali Weinberg and Jo Ling Kent contributed to this report.