Releasing a tentative primary schedule for next year, Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson said yesterday that he was concerned about the trend of states holding their presidential primaries and caucuses earlier. He said he will appoint an advisory panel to study the trend and recommend ways to reverse it.

"It is so compressed and it goes off like a string of firecrackers once it starts," he told the Associated Press. "A person who might have gotten a bounce because of a surprisingly good showing in an early primary ... [won't have] time to really maximize that."

Among the options Nicholson said he will instruct the panel to consider is a rotating regional system in which different groups of states follow Iowa and New Hampshire each presidential cycle. That idea is being promoted by the National Association of Secretaries of State.

GOP Primary and Caucus Schedule

Dates for Republican primaries and caucuses in 2000, according to the Republican National Committee. The Democrats' schedule, which is expected to be very similar, will not be set until September. States could change the dates but would face penalties from the RNC.

Feb. 7: Iowa caucus

Feb. 8: New Hampshire

Feb. 19: South Carolina

Feb. 22: Arizona, Michigan

Feb. 29: Virginia, North Dakota caucus

March 7: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont

March 10: Colorado, Utah

March 14: Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas

March 21: Illinois, Wyoming caucus

April 4: Kansas, Wisconsin

April 25: Minnesota caucus

April 27: Pennsylvania

May 2: District of Columbia, Indiana, North Carolina

May 9: Nebraska, West Virginia

May 16: Oregon

May 19: Alaska caucus

May 20: Kentucky

May 23: Arkansas, Idaho

May 25: Nevada caucus

June 6: Alabama, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington

No date set: Louisiana, Delaware

SOURCE: Associated Press