Election 101: What's the Republican primary calendar for 2012?

Now that New Hampshire has set its primary for Jan. 10, the 2012 political calendar is largely set. Both political parties select their presidential nominees through state primaries and caucuses, with candidates amassing delegates as they go. Under Republican Party rules, a candidate needs 1,212 delegates to win the nomination. That’s half, plus one, of the total 2,422 delegates.

1. The Fab Five

Charlie Neibergall/AP/File
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, in March. He later declared his candidacy for president, seeking the 2012 GOP nomination.

The first contests tend to seal the front-runners for each party. If a presidential candidate does poorly in the early contests, he or she would appear to be unelectable – and would have a tough time persuading people to continue contributing time and money to their campaigns. Absent donations, it’s hard to afford to compete in subsequent races.

Here are the first five GOP contests of the 2012 election cycle.

Jan. 3Iowa caucus: 28 delegates at stake

Jan. 10New Hampshire primary: 12 delegates, distributed proportionally

Jan. 21 – South Carolina primary: 25 delegates, winner take all

Jan. 31Florida primary: 50 delegates, winner take all

Feb. 4Nevada caucus: 28 delegates

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