RNC Chairman Mike Duncan
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Republican Party will penalize five states for holding presidential primary elections before February 5, 2008, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan announced Thursday.
New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming will be stripped of half their delegates to the party's convention in September, Duncan said in a conference call with reporters.
"The rules lay out a well defined process for selecting delegates, including a window from February 5 to July 28 in which state parties are permitted to hold their delegate selection process," Duncan said. "Five states have gone outside the rules with their delegate selection process, and they have been made fully aware of what the consequences will be."
The Iowa and Nevada caucuses are also scheduled to be held before February 5, but these two states will avoid being penalized because caucuses do not assign binding delegates to the convention.
Reacting to the news, several state party leaders said they still expect their full delegation will be allowed to participate in the convention.
“I remain confident that all of Michigan's 60 national delegates will be seated next year in Minneapolis-St. Paul," Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis said in a statement. "Today’s action by the RNC was expected and, while disappointing, it is just one part of a long process toward the convention next September."
Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer also said he is "confident that Florida will ultimately seat its full delegation."
Meanwhile New Hampshire GOP Chair Fergus Cullen said he wasn’t surprised and suggested the RNC's ruling will not diminish New Hampshire's historically influential role in the nomination process.
"No one remembers the number of delegates John McCain won in 2000, what they remember is that he won with 49% of the vote," he said. "The New Hampshire primary has never been about the number of delegates at stake."
South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson also suggested his state's primary will remain influential and said losing delegates was worth sacrificing for its early spot in the calendar.
"We have been outside the window the entire time and we knew that," he said. "We have always felt the South Carolina Republican primary will be the first in the South primary and we were willing to sacrifice a few delegates to make sure that 700,000 primary voters would have their voices heard."
And Amy Larimer, the executive director of the Wyoming GOP, said, “We knew that this was coming when we made our decision in August. At the end of the day, this is amongst friends. We knew what we were up against."
– CNN's Alexander Mooney, Lauren Kornreich, Peter Hamby, and Laura Bernardini