Politicos in five states will watch today's press conference in Concord closely. Several cable networks will carry it live -- it's that important. Also watching: the corporate travel departments of every major newspaper, magazine and news network.

Balls in the air include:

** The date of South Carolina's Republican primary. Reliable Republican sources say Katon Dawson is ready to move the date to Jan. 19, but others think Jan. 22 is more likely. Dawson is keeping to himself, and even the senior managers on presidential campaigns are being kept out of the loop. This angers them, to some degree.

** Whether New Hampshire will announce its date today. Secretary of State Bill Gardner will appear with Dawson but may not have anything to say.

** Whether Iowa acts immediately; Gov. Chet Culver said yesterday that "bottom line," Iowa would hold its caucuses first. Since New Hampshire has blocked off the week of the 8th through the 12th, Iowa might have to prepare a caucus for mid-December.

** But hold on. A mid-December caucus, followed by three weeks of noting (or a holiday) will dilute the forward force Iowa exerts on the rest of the calendar.

** What the South Carolina Democrats do, if anything. Chair Carol Khare Fowler is keeping a close hold on her options. The DNC's calendar commission gave her an earlier date, but the presidential campaigns will pressure her to move with the GOP. If she does, the state will be penalized by the DNC.

** The reaction of the Republican National Committee. Yesterday, communications director Lisa Miller told me, "“The RNC rules adopted at the convention in 2004 are clear and will be applied equally to every state party." That means that South Carolina will be penalized. Long-time rules committee veterans want a floor fight at the convention about the calendar rules, and they'll probably get one.

** The frustration of Florida: their move to Jan. 29 arguably forced Dawson's hand.

** The frustration of Nevada. It's not the case to say that their caucus has just lost a considerable amount of influence.

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