Washington (CNN) - While most of the 2012 presidential field has been slow to get out of the gate, the jockeying to become an early – and consequential – presidential primary state has already begun.
The Arizona Republican Party is aiming move up its primary date to early February of 2012, in direct defiance of the official calendar approved by the Republican National Committee last summer.
The Arizona GOP has drafted a resolution – widely expected to pass this weekend when it is put to a vote – that would leap-frog Arizona's primary from the spring, when its more likely the nominee will have already been determined, to the earlier date when early voting just begins to gear up.
That will frustrate the national Republican Party, which approved a plan that only permitted Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada to hold contests in February – aiming to avoid a frontloaded primary calendar that will favor well-funded candidates over lesser-known upstarts.
In fact, in an effort to discourage other states from moving up their contest dates, the RNC vowed to punish states that hold February primaries by stripping them of delegates to the national convention. And those that hold contests in March are forced to allocate delegates proportionally based on the percentage of the popular vote – a departure from the winner-take-all model that has been the traditional GOP model.
Of course, it's unclear how serious the RNC will be in enforcing its threats. After all, Democrats faced a similar scenario in 2008 when Michigan and Florida held their primaries ahead of the date sanctioned by the party. Despite months of threats to the contrary, delegates from both states were ultimately seated at the party's convention.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, will have the ultimate say in when her state holds its primary.