Florida is causing a stir among the GOP as it appears ready to schedule its Republican primary on Jan. 31, which is earlier than the national party officials expected. This would set off a domino effect, making some states leapfrog Florida and move their primary date even closer, possibly in early January.
Originally, the state commission had said that Feb. 21 was the likely date for the primary. However, the date is expected to be moved up after reports this weekend showed that three other states – Missouri, Colorado, and Georgia – were looking to push their primary date up as well.
The motive for pushing up the date is the Florida state Senate wants to ensure that their state has the fifth primary right behind Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Many states bully each other for an early primary date because that means they will have more influence in picking the nominee.
However, the Republican National Committee (RNC) hopes Florida will select a later date – February or March – in order to avoid the same situation that happened in 2008. During the last presidential cycle, Florida moved up its primary which caused other primary caucuses to be pushed up and Iowa voters had to go to the polls the first week of January.
If Florida does not agree to a later date, that same thing will likely happen again in 2012. With a late January primary in Florida, it is almost certain that Iowa and New Hampshire will also move forward in order to keep their first-in-the-nation status.
The RNC has a rule that forbids any state other than the four “carve-out” states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, from holding a primary before March 6. Florida’s intended move will directly violate this rule.
All four of the states have stated that they will work together and move forward as a block. If Florida moves forward in spite of the RNC rules, it is not clear yet whether this will encourage other states to do so as well.
All states have until Oct. 1 to submit their planned primary dates to the RNC.
“We are going to continue to work with Florida and other states until the deadline. We will continue to work with Florida and other states to play by the rules. If they don’t abide by the rules, however, they can stand to lose 50 percent of their delegates [at the national convention in Tampa, FL] as a consequence,” Kristen Kukowski, spokesperson for the RNC, told The Christian Post. Delegates are representatives of the party who ultimately end up choosing the nominee.
Saul Anuzis, who is on the RNC's presidential nominating schedule committee, told CNN, "If Florida decides to go in January, they blow the RNC planned calendar wide open and we'll be back to campaigning over the holidays as Iowa and New Hampshire hold their presidential caucus and primary in early January."
However, Brian Hughes, communications director of the Republican Party of Florida, told CBS that it is important for Florida to have a bigger part in the nominating process.
"There's no way to win the White House without Florida," he said.