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Politics

RNC Lobbying States Against Early Primaries

September 27, 2011 - 6:00pm

The Republican National Committee wants everyone to remain calm as a number of states, particularly Florida, jockey hard to be among the first out of the gate for the presidential primary season.

There are three days left for each state to set its primary date; at that point, the RNC will figure out how the schedule will play out, where politicians may have to spend their Christmas holiday season campaigning, and which states may face consequences for jumping the gun.

Meanwhile, the RNC continues to lobby the states seeking to move up the calendar, advising each to consider the impact of any potential change.

A spokeswoman for the RNC said rather than spend time speculating on different primary change scenarios or the potential fallout from states moving primaries before March 6, wait until after Saturday.

Were going to continue working with states, like Florida and others, to ensure that theyre within our rules, said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. Its Wednesday -- were going to continue having conversations and working with people in Florida.

On Tuesday, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon told CNN what lawmakers in Tallahassee have been saying for weeks: Florida will have an early primary.

"We are expecting to meet on Friday from 11 (a.m.) to 12, and I expect that they will pick Jan. 31 as Florida's primary date," Cannon said.

The nine-member Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee, which includes three appointees each by Cannon, Sen. President Mike Haridopolos and Gov. Rick Scott, deferred selecting a date last week.

The committee opted last week to wait until South Carolina set a day for its primary.

The overall intent of an early primary date is to give Florida a greater role in the selection of the GOPs presidential candidate. Florida lawmakers have been unconcerned that the potential consequence of having an early date is that half the state's delegates would be barred from the national nominating convention.

In 2008, Florida opted for the early date and while the delegation was reduced by half, the full delegation was eventually welcomed to the convention.

The GOP's 2012 convention will be held in Tampa.

States that dont set the date before Oct. 1 could have the entire delegation barred from the convention.

Under rules agreed to by both political parties, only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are permitted to hold nominating contests before March 6.

The pending change by Florida isnt being taken well by the front four states.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn told the Des Moines Register that while they havent made plans to move the caucus from Feb. 6, they intend to remain first on the schedule.

The four sanctioned early states have been very clear that well move together if necessary to ensure integrity of order as outlined in (RNC) rules, Strawn stated. Thus, the date of the Iowa caucuses may change, but its lead-off position will not. I remain cautiously optimistic that we can avoid having Iowans caucus while simultaneously wrapping Christmas presents.

The same opinion is coming from New Hampshire regarding its status as the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

The New Hampshire primary tradition will be honored and the law will be upheld, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner told a blogger for the Union Leader. That law says that the primary will be held seven days ahead of any similar election in another state in the year of a presidential election, or the previous year."

Meanwhile, other states, such as Colorado and Georgia, have discussed going before March 6.

Kukowski acknowledges that once one state jumps, others may follow. But again, she said its better to see what occurs first.

I dont think its any secret what the first four have been saying and the common knowledge is that once somebody moves and breaks the skeleton that the rules provide, who knows what is going to happen, but its most likely everybody jumping ahead, Kukowski said. We dont know what is going to happen. And were just working diligently until Oct. 1 to make sure everybody complies with the rules.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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