Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is again warning Florida Republicans that they will be punished if they fail to move their 2012 presidential primary to a later date, in compliance with national party rules.
"I can appreciate and respect the viewpoints of people here in Florida that want to move their calendar date," Priebus said Wednesday during a press conference promoting next year's Republican National Convention in Tampa. "But it doesn't change my responsibility to enforce the rules, which is you lose half your delegates [to the convention]. That's a pretty rough rule."
Republican legislators and activists in Florida want their primary to come fifth in the nominating process, after the traditional first four caucus and primary states hold their contests in February of next year.
The Florida primary is currently set for Jan. 31 of next year, putting the state in violation of RNC rules that forbid any state other than the first four from holding a primary prior to March 6.
Florida legislators have signaled a willingness to move the contest into early March after the first four states, and have set up a commission to examine the calendar issue, but Florida's convention delegation would still be penalized if the new date falls before that second week in March.
Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, said legislative leaders are still eyeing how other states are handling their primary and caucus decisions before deciding what to do. Arizona, Georgia and Michigan are also considering holding early contests in violation of RNC rules.
Florida has until Oct. 1 to choose a primary date.
"Speaker Cannon isn't wed to a particular date or place in line," Betta told CNN. "Ultimately he supports choosing a date that will allow Florida to remain a relevant player in the process. For him, that requires selecting a date that is both early and unique to Florida. We will have a better picture of what that date might be as other states begin to make their decisions."
Making the process even trickier for GOP officials is the convention's location in downtown Tampa. If Florida's convention delegation is penalized, the national party would essentially be excluding their Republican hosts from a party in their own backyard.
Priebus said he hopes the delegate problem can be avoided and hinted that the committee may be able to find a solution at the convention next August.
"My sense is, on the committee, there is a desire to enforce the rules and have the rules stick," he said. "That's something we should work out with the nominee."
Florida National Committeewoman Sharon Day expressed support for the RNC calendar rules but said state party activists aren't necessarily fretting about being excluded from next year's convention festivities.
"I think they do understand [the rules]," Day said, "but sometimes in general you don't understand what you don't want to hear."
RNC officials are gathered in Tampa this week for their annual summer meeting, roughly a year before they will again descend to the city to officially nominate a Republican challenger to President Barack Obama.
Addressing a small army of local television cameras Wednesday, Priebus said the convention will draw over 45,000 people to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and generate more than $175 million in revenue for the region.
"This is a Super Bowl times four," he boasted. "This is probably the biggest event that the Tampa Bay community has ever put on thus far."
With the convention set to fall smack in the middle of hurricane season, Priebus said the RNC was already working out contingency plans with local officials.
"We have put our faith in God that hurricanes won't be here," he said.