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NEW HAMPSHIRE TO HOLD PRIMARY ON EARLIER DATE

New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary will be Feb. 1, a week earlier than many observers expected, Secretary of State Bill Gardner announced Tuesday after Delaware officials told him they will probably hold their Republican primary Feb. 8.

State law requires its primary to be held a week before any other state's primary.

The announcement gives other states a target date as they schedule their contests as close as possible to New Hampshire's primary, which traditionally has been in mid-February.

South Carolina is holding its Republican primary Feb. 19. Delaware Democrats will hold their primary four days after New Hampshire's, but both Vice President Gore and Bill Bradley have pledged to ignore that event.

That prompted the New Hampshire Legislature to change state law this year to allow the primary to be held as early as December.

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