Washington (CNN) - The chairman of the Republican Party of Florida says he's open to moving his state's primary date from the first to the fifth position on the 2012 presidential nominating calendar.
The statement Thursday night by RPOF Chairman Dave Bitner came hours after the South Carolina and Iowa Republican parties demanded that the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa be re-located to a different state unless Florida Republicans move their presidential primary to a later date.
Florida's primary is currently slated for January 31, 2012.
That's in direct violation of the presidential nominating calendar ratified last year by the Democratic and Republican National Committees, which carved out February for the official start of the nomination fight and once again placed contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina at the front of the process.
The Republican National Committee affirmed Thursday that the convention will remain in Tampa. But after the threats from Iowa and South Carolina, Bitner sounded like he was ready to make peace with his GOP colleagues in other states.
"There are many reasons why Florida should have an early and significant role in selecting the Republican presidential nominee, yet I understand the Republican National Committee is looking to maintain an orderly primary calendar," said Bitner, who added that top Republican legislators in the state are willing to work with the RNC to "find a primary date that both respects the calendar while preserving Florida's role in the process."
"We all agree that moving the primary into late February, making Florida fifth on the calendar, would sufficiently meet both criteria," he said.
Earlier Thursday South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd, eager to protect her state's influential role in primary process, sent a letter to RNC members accusing the Florida legislature of "thumbing its nose at the RNC" by ignoring the agreed-upon calendar.
Florida's primary date can only be adjusted through legislation. Republicans control both house of the Florida legislature as well as the governor's mansion.
"Simply put, if Florida does not respect the process by which our primary calendar was set, the RNC should not be bound to the process by which the convention site was selected," Floyd wrote.
Floyd's move was immediately endorsed by Iowa GOP Chairman Matthew Strawn. The Iowa caucuses are tentatively scheduled for February 6, 2012.
Floyd asked the RNC to convene a task force to search for new convention sites. She proposed re-locating the event to one of the states currently embroiled in high-profile labor fights, like Ohio or Wisconsin.
She also said the convention could take place in a key Senate battleground state such as Virginia, Missouri or Michigan. Or the RNC could choose a city in North Carolina to rival the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, she said.
"My purpose today is just to begin the dialogue," Floyd told reporters on a conference call Thursday, noting that she had already received encouragement from RNC members in other states.
Florida Republicans, Floyd said, feel "emboldened" to flout the national party rules because Tampa was chosen to host the 2012 Republican National Convention.
The RNC can punish states that violate the approved calendar by stripping them of convention delegates, but Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon recently suggested to CNN that any delegate penalties imposed on his state by the RNC would be largely irrelevant simply because Florida is hosting the convention.
But Cannon tersely brushed off Floyd's proposal Thursday morning.
"I look forward to meeting the delegates from South Carolina in Tampa next summer," Cannon told CNN.
The new chairman of the New Hampshire GOP also called for Florida to follow the rules, but didn't join Floyd and Strawn in trying to move the convention out of Florida if Sunshine state Republicans don't push back the date of their primary.
"If Florida will simply follow the calendar, they'll be in a decisive position to pick the next Republican nominee. The suggestions that the convention may be moved from Tampa, or that their delegates won't be counted – I'm sure none of that will come to pass," said NH GOP Chairman Jack Kimball, in a statement. "The New Hampshire Secretary of State sets our primary date, and by law, New Hampshire must hold the First-in-the-Nation Primary. In the end, I am confident that saner minds must and will prevail."
UPDATE: Floyd issued a sharply-worded statement Friday rejecting Florida's offer. Allowing any state to hold a contest before March 6, she said, "sends a terrible message to other states that legislative temper tantrums will be rewarded rather than punished - and it flies in the face of everything we believe in as a Party about the rule of law."
The RNC calendar rules adopted last year prevent any state other than the first four to hold a caucus or primary prior to March 6.
“What Florida is suggesting now is akin to being pulled over for going 90 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone, and telling the police that you are willing to slow down to 70," Floyd said. "Rules are rules, and hopefully my colleagues at the RNC will reject this idea on its face, and continue to insist upon tough and meaningful sanctions that could include the loss of the convention."