The “not-so-friendly” rivalry, as one activist put it, is a boon to New Hampshire’s longtime elections chief, Bill Gardner, whose foremost and almost obsessive concern has been maintaining its “First in the Nation” primary status.

“Bill Gardner is the happiest person alive,” said Irene Lin, a Democratic strategist in New Hampshire who is managing Andru Volinsky’s gubernatorial campaign. “It just strengthens [New Hampshire’s] case for being first-in-the nation versus Iowa.”

If Iowa switches to direct-ballot voting, Gardner has said he plans to move the date of the New Hampshire primary up to be a week before. New Hampshire law mandates the primary election take place seven days before a “similar election” in any other state. For decades, Gardner has interpreted Iowa’s caucus to be just different enough from New Hampshire’s direct-ballot voting method to prevent it from being a direct threat.