Iowa or N.H. first? It's too early to tell

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said Thursday he doesn’t know whether New Hampshire will move up its 2008 presidential primary, but he’s not worried about the matter.

"I’ve been through this before, so I’m not very concerned about it," Culver said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Actually, I guess I’ve been through it twice."

Culver was Iowa’s secretary of state during the 2000 and 2004 general elections.

Despite ambiguity about whether New Hampshire will move its first-in-the nation primary ahead of Democratic caucuses in Nevada, Culver said he thinks Iowa’s leadoff role in the presidential nominating process is secure. Iowa law requires the state’s caucuses to be held before the first primary.

"To be honest, I don’t know," Culver said of New Hampshire’s plans. "What they’re saying is that they are going to wait and see and have not suggested they’re unhappy with the date they’ve been given. They want to see what other states do."

The Iowa caucuses traditionally start the presidential nominating process, and then are followed eight days later by the New Hampshire primary. Insistence by national Democrats that Nevada hold caucuses before New Hampshire has prompted concern that New Hampshire will leap ahead of both states.

Culver said Iowa and New Hampshire have strong ties and should continue to cooperate with each other. He plans to talk with New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch about the presidential nominating calendar at this weekend’s National Governors Association meeting.

Earlier this week, Culver discussed the matter with officials from the Democratic National Committee, and he will meet with DNC Chairman Howard Dean this weekend.

"It’s just a matter of everyone kind of trying to play by the rules and respect the process," Culver said.

At that meeting, Lynch will make it clear he’s committed to retaining New Hampshire’s status as the first primary state, said Colin Manning, a spokesman for the governor.

State law requires New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner to schedule the primary a week before any "similar election." Gardner has said he won’t set the date until late this year.

"Ultimately, it’s Bill Gardner that sets the date of the primary," Manning said. "The governor will support whatever Bill decides."

Associated Press writer Norma Love in New Hampshire contributed to this report.