The 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary date is still unknown. However, no matter what date is chosen, it is likely that the 2012 presidential primary season will be the first in the nation’s history to last more than five months. For this post, “presidential primary season” means the length of time between the first presidential primary and the last one; it does not include caucuses, or straw polls.
Presidential primaries will be 100 years old next year. In the years 1912 through 1972, no presidential primary was ever earlier than March. The presidential primary season ended, in those years, in either May or the first week in June. The season couldn’t last longer, because in the first half of the 20th century, presidential conventions were usually in June. In 1976 through 1996, the earliest presidential primary was in late February. The earliest primary in 2000 was in early February. Starting in 2004, the earliest primary has been in January. Still, before 2012, the presidential primary season has never exceeded five months.
2012 will be the longest season because (1) Utah is holding its presidential primary on June 26, the latest presidential primary in U.S. history; and (2) New Hampshire will almost certainly hold a primary that is earlier than any previous presidential primary in U.S. history.
On the whole, 2012 presidential primaries will be later than they were in any election since 1992. In 2012, half the presidential primaries will not be over until April 3, a later median date than any election since 1992, when the median date was April 7. The 2008 median primary date was February 12.