Washington (CNN) - Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon said Thursday he sees little chance that his state will move its 2012 presidential primary date to later in the year to comply with rules approved by the two national political parties.
"I think we belong at the beginning of the national conversation about who the next president is, and so I favor keeping it early," Cannon told CNN during a visit to Washington. "I am aware of the risks, and people say it should be moved later, but I definitely favor keeping it early rather than moving it back like the parties are asking."
Florida's primary is currently scheduled for Jan. 31, 2012, tentatively placing it ahead of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - the four states given coveted February leadoff spots in the presidential nominating process.
All other states are forbidden from holding presidential contests before March 1, according to rules approved by both the Democratic and Republican national committees. Several states, including Florida, require legislative action to adjust their primary or caucus dates.
But if Florida Republicans - who control both chambers of the legislature and the governor's mansion - insist on keeping their primary date, they could compel the first four states to schedule their contests in January to protect their cherished leadoff status.
That would be a repeat performance of the front-loaded 2008 primary process that forced the presidential campaigns to spend the holidays campaigning in Iowa, which held its caucus on Jan. 3. The DNC and RNC were hoping to avoid that scenario when they set the calendar rules last year.
Cannon said he and other legislators, including state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, would consider moving the date a few days later into February to give the first four states some wiggle room. But he argued that Florida provides a better sampling of the nation's electorate than the first four states, and should remain at or near the front of the nominating process.
"We will consider moving it a little bit," Cannon said. "If the end result, whatever the date is, keeps Florida at the beginning or early in the dialogue, that's the goal."
The Sunshine State could be stripped of its delegates to the Republican National Convention as punishment for violating the calendar rules. But Cannon told CNN he is not worried about penalties and cannot envision a circumstance in which the RNC refuses to seat Florida's delegation, since the GOP convention will be held in Tampa.
"There is some understandable skepticism about what [the RNC] would do with Florida's delegates," Cannon said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has yet to take a firm position on the primary date and was recently urged by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to set a later date for the primary.
"We want to pick a date that is as early as a possible without losing delegates," said Scott's communications director Brian Burgess. "We don't want to be penalized. He prefers that we avoid that."