New Hampshire sets Jan 8 for presidential primary

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CONCORD, N H , Nov 22 (Reuters) New Hampshire set January 8 as the date for its primary vote in the US presidential election, ending months of speculation over the timing of one of the first contests in the 2008 race.

Iowa's nominating contest on January 3 and New Hampshire's primary kick off state-by-state battles in which voters have an early chance to choose the nominee from each party who will face off on the November 4, 2008, election.

New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, who threatened to hold the primary as early as December, made the announcement at a news conference in Concord yesterday, the state capital.

New Hampshire allows independents -- not just registered Republicans and Democrats -- to vote in its primary and they can chose either a Republican or a Democratic ballot.

New Hampshire has held the nation's first presidential primary since 1920. It passed a law in 1977 requiring a seven-day window between its vote and any ''similar'' contest to avoid diluting its influence in picking Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

REUTERS TB BST0502

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