Florida Wants Jan. 31 GOP Primary, Staying Strong at Fifth

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: September 28, 2011 11:58 AM

Florida, the 29 electoral-vote gorilla, is moving up the 2012 GOP campaign calendar with a proposed Jan. 31 primary.

The earlier date, favored by House Speaker Dean Cannon, would give Florida added prominence in the presidential primaries, ensuring that it is the first large state to vote.

Florida's move presumably would push up the primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- designated by the national parties as the first four states to vote.

The Republican National Committee has set an Oct. 1 deadline for finalizing dates. A bipartisan committee is scheduled to meet Friday in Tallahassee to vote on the Sunshine State's date.

"Since the speaker named three of the nine members of the committee [Senate President Mike Haridopolos appointed three and Gov. Rick Scott appointed three], it seems that Jan. 31 is going to be the date," said Brian Hughes, spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida.

"We've always said the state deserves a prominent location on the calendar and that we deserve our own date," Hughes said.

Katie Betta, spokeswoman for Cannon, said, "Speaker Cannon doesn’t necessarily favor moving in front of Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire. He thinks Florida should be fifth in the process."

That view was voiced by Republicans and Democrats alike during a meeting of the date-setting committee last week.

"We're the largest and most diverse swing state in the country. We need to be a player," said committee member Al Lawson, a former Democratic state senator from Tallahassee.

According to one possible timetable, the first primaries and caucuses would roll out as follows:

Jan. 16 -- Iowa caucuses.
Jan. 24 -- New Hampshire primary.
Jan. 28 -- South Carolina primary, Nevada caucuses.
Jan. 31 -- Florida primary.

That's a dramatic advance from previous schedules, which had the early states voting into February.

But like bumper cars jousting for position, several states accelerated the process. Along with Florida, Missouri and Michigan were maneuvering to move up the calendar.

"There are a hundred different scenarios," said  Ryan Tronovitch, regional press secretary of the Republican National Committee. "One thing's for sure, the campaigns will be working hard over the holidays."

South Carolina is expected to make an announcement Thursday about its 2012 primary, and if the Palmetto State takes the Saturday, Jan. 28 date, Florida can be expected to lock in on Jan. 31.

The 11-state Super Tuesday, once ticketed for late February or early March, would likely move up to Feb. 7. Voting on that day: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

By that time, in all likelihood, the GOP nomination will be decided -- a full nine months before the general election.

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (2)

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11:40AM SEP 29TH 2011

To hell with New Hampshire and Iowa. Florida has COUNTIES bigger than either AND we represent a far more accurate microcosm of the nation as a whole. Moreover, New Hampshire has an "open" primary; allowing Democrat-socialists and clueless "independents" decide who OUR candidate will be. That's how we got LOSER McCain. They'd love to stick us with RINO Romney same way. The GOP ought to refuse to recognize primaries dominated by our enemies.

As far as losing convention delegates, who cares? Today's conventions are largely a meaningless media opportunity. The nomintion will be decided long before THAT anachronistic media exercise has commenced.

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