The Republican primaries and caucuses are coming soon for the many candidates competing for president — and thanks to the latest move by Florida, the crunch-time will be coming up sooner than everyone has previously planned on.
State House Speaker Dean Cannon told CNN earlier this week that in its Friday meeting, the state committee that will officially set the date will likely pick January 31. The committee is made of nine members, appointed three each by the governor, the state House Speaker (that is, Dean Cannon), and the state Senate President.
This date would put the Florida primary a week before the originally intended date for the Iowa caucuses — guaranteeing that Iowa and other early states will move their contests even further forward, in order to beat Florida.
RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told TPM: “We’re going to continue working with Florida and other states until the deadline on October 1st to ensure they remain within the Party rules. Any state that violates the rules will lose 50 percent of its delegates.”
In 2008, maneuvering over primaries — with Florida as a notable pugilist — resulted in the Iowa caucus being held on January 3, just narrowly missing the prospect of a super-early contest 2007. The New Hampshire primary was then held five days later on January 8. This year, the national Republicans worked to avoid a repeat of those early contests, with the official four early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — supposed to hold their contests in February.
And all of that work could now be undone.
Back in 2008, Florida held its primary in January, breaking the official rules from both parties that stipulate only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can hold contests in that month. This led to Florida losing half its delegates on the Republican side — but the state still benefited from being a major political victory for John McCain, sealing his hold on the nomination. On the Democratic side, they were supposed to not count at all, which led to extended political wrangling between the national DNC, the Hillary Clinton campaign — which had won the state — and the Obama campaign.
And this time around, the official early states appear ready to retaliate against Florida once again if necessary.
“Iowa will be first,” state GOP chair Matt Strawn said of his party-conducted caucus to the Des Moines Register. He also added: “Ironically, in attempting to assert increased relevance in the process, Florida’s move only elevates the importance of Iowa and the other early states. A compressed caucus and primary calendar makes doing well in the four kickoff states a necessity for a candidate to secure the Republican nomination.”
Furthermore, New Hampshire law specifically requires that the state’s contest be the first primary, held at least seven days before any other primary, and empowers the Secretary of State to unilaterally set the date in order to carry out that mission. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has served in his office since way back in 1976 — holding it under multiple governors of both parties — and has thoroughly upheld this provision.
Also, as Jon Ralston points out, the Nevada GOP voted this past July to bind the scheduling of their caucus to the first Saturday after the New Hampshire primary.
As for the remaining early contest, South Carolina, they are also pledging to retaliate against Florida. “Here’s the bottom line,” state GOP chair Chad Connelly said, Politico reports. “I’m going to have the first-in-the-South, and everybody’s effort to be more relevant is going to result in everyone becoming more irrelevant.”
However, the Florida state party doesn’t appear to be fazed, as indicated by spokesman Brian Hughes in an interview with TPM.
“It’s the authority of the committee, based on statute, to set the date. So the Republican Party of Florida will proceed accordingly once the date is set and I can tell you the Republican Party of Florida supports the notion that we deserve an early prominent date and one that we have to our own, our own date. Given the importance that Florida plays in the national landscape, we support the idea that Republican candidates ought to be put through their paces early, and we think that will end up with the strongest nominee, one who’s able to win Florida in the general election, and I think it’s safe to say we need a candidate who will win Florida in order to win the White House.”
Is the Florida GOP concerned, TPM asked, about how such a move could lead the four official early states to put their primaries and caucuses in January, in order to counteract Florida’s move?
“Well I mean ultimately those the decisions those states need to make. a number of prominent republican leaders in the state have said they believe Florida should be fifth. And the Republican Party of Florida, as far as we’re concerned, we just want a date that is a date of its own, that’s early enough and reflect the importance that Florida will have on the national stage.”