Washington (CNN) - With Florida officials refusing to back down from their plan to hold their presidential primary in January of next year, national GOP leaders worked nervously behind-the-scenes Thursday to keep their fragile nominating calendar intact.
A Republican-appointed commission in Florida is expected Friday to name Jan. 31 as the date of their 2012 presidential primary, a decision first reported by CNN on Wednesday.
The move would flout Republican National Committee rules that forbid any state other than the first four early voting states from holding a contest before March 6, likely sparking a chain reaction as those states moving their contests into January to protect their roles in the process.
Florida's representatives on the RNC approved the current calendar rules at a meeting last year.
But top Florida Republicans have since demanded that their state go fifth in the 2012 process after the first four "carve out" states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
RNC officials had been hoping to allow the Sunshine State to move its contest to Feb. 21, which would still violate party rules but satisfy Florida's desire to go fifth.
Florida Republicans told CNN, however, that the prospect of states like Missouri and Colorado also holding caucus or primary contests in February forced their hand.
One Republican source involved in the negotiations Thursday said RNC officials were hoping that Florida could go fifth and share a date with other states, but other GOP sources familiar with the talks denied that account.
A spokeswoman for the RNC said they were still working to keep the calendar intact.
“We’re going to continue working with Florida and other states until the deadline on October 1st to ensure they remain within the Party rules," said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "Any state that violates the rules will lose 50 percent of its delegates.”
Florida Republicans, who want a primary date all to themselves, are not budging, even in the face of penalties from the RNC.
"Nothing has changed," said Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon. "I believe Jan. 31st is the right day for Florida and anticipate the committee making that date official tomorrow."
Under committee rules, states in violation of the calendar can be stripped of half their delegates to next August's Republican National Convention in Tampa.
RNC members are also mulling stiffer penalties for rule-breaking states, like banishing those delegations to far away hotels in the Tampa area and giving their delegations the worst seats inside the convention hall.
A spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida brushed off the threats.
"If there is some process in 24 hours time that ensures Florida as fifth, then I think the commission could be swayed," said RPOF spokesman Brian Hughes. "But short of that, the Speaker's prediction seems accurate."
Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn issued a joint statement Thursday with his counterparts from New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina promising to leap ahead of Florida and into January if the Florida commission moves ahead with its plan.
"The four sanctioned, early states have been very clear that we will move together, if necessary, to ensure order as outlined in RNC rules," Strawn said. "If we are forced to change our dates together, we will."
The first four states would also face penalties if they move from February into January, but South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly dared the RNC to punish his state if Florida triggers the chaos.
Connelly said he would wait until after Florida finalizes its primary date before naming South Carolina's date.
"Sure, I have to accept the penalties if they impose them on me, but it doesn't mean I can't pitch a fit there and let them know that this isn't right," Connelly said at a press conference in Columbia.
One Republican source familiar with the calendar spat was doubtful that a deal will be struck before Saturday, the deadline for states to set their primary dates.
"I don't think Florida is going to back down," the source told CNN. "If you think about it from a selfish standpoint, there is no point for Florida to back down. They have the convention, they are a crucial state in the primary and they are a swing state in the general. They have all the leverage a state could want. It's a win-win-win situation for them."
The RNC did see a positive development Thursday.
Georgia, which had flirted with moving up its primary date, decided to hold its primary on March 6, in compliance with committee calendar rules.
–CNN Political Producer Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report