Florida GOP chairman: We can go fifth
April 1st, 2011
09:50 AM ET
12 years ago

Florida GOP chairman: We can go fifth

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."

Filed under: 2012 • Florida • Republican National Committee • South Carolina
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Clwyd

    Darn it all! I was hoping it would be a sign that the republicans would continue to spread chaos across the US and even in their own party. Don't worry! They will somehow!

    April 1, 2011 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Fact Check by Total Recall.

    This date change to the Florida primary occured shortly after the 2008 elections, if I remember correctly. The GOP had already announced that their next convention would be held in Florida after or during their 2008 Convention.

    Florida was selected to PRIOR to the election to garner Floridian voters in the general election. Remember all of that ruckuss about the Florida votes not counting on the Democratic side?

    April 1, 2011 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Such pettiness, and childish behavior......are politicians all just "bad buys" in the end? Spoiled rotten, and only thinking of themselves?

    April 1, 2011 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  4. Lolo

    The Republicans can't even make up their minds about this and they want to have a say about how government is run? They are getting ready to cook up something to steal elections like they normally do. I do not trust them at all. The people who voted for them are up for a rude awakening. They are going to take everything from you idiots and you don't even see it. Now you are crying don't touch my social security, which is government funded. They want to shut down the government, cut education, but keep helping their rich friends. Like I have said before education is the key.

    April 1, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  5. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I'd prefer that all of the primaries and caucuses start in March at the earliest. I don't like all this long season of campaigning. The only exceptions would be Iowa and New Hampshire. They could have it on the first Tuesday in Feburary.

    April 1, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. Alex

    "In the end, I am confident that saner minds must and will prevail."

    You're talking about radical Republicans – good luck with that.

    April 1, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  7. Texas Doc

    It doesn't matter TeaOP, President Obama is gong to win in a Reaganesque landslide. Seriously, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, Sarah Plain, Michelle Bachmann? You'd be better off digging up the Three Stooges and nominating them.

    April 1, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  8. NVa Native

    The party of "wanna-bee" bullies is trying to bully itself?
    What a joke the Repubs have become – lets all have some tea!

    April 1, 2011 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    President Obama is growing jobs while the GOP are still campaigning and complaining but they will try to take credit for the work our President is doing or they will distort it with lies.

    April 1, 2011 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Hmmph. Somebody got slapped back into line.

    The primary system is wrought with good and bad. The good is that it gives the candidats time to go out and meet the public, face time. This is a major, major benefit and the only one I need cite. The down side is that states that vote later in the process suffer when one candidate builds an early lead in delegates.

    So the problems come down delegates. How many and when are assigned to who. I see no easy fix. The only fix I can come up with is a logistic nightmare. Allow votes to be cast over the entire primary season, but somehow restricting voters to just one vote.

    Even that has its flaws aside from the voting logixtics. How would you report results, or should you? You have to report results, but that opens another can of worms. The only other solution is to have a final nationwide delegate election day. Still conduct "primaries", which would serve to limit the field for the final nationwide runoff election.

    April 1, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. K3Citizen

    It's funny how selfish the republicans are, even to their own people. The "If I don't get to go first, I'll cry" attitude doesn't stop, the republicans will be run out of power. They are whining brats who always have to have their way. Maybe they will not exceed their budgets during this election. They can't even balance their small budget to run for office, let alone balance the nations' trillion dollar mess.

    April 1, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  12. Ed

    I got a better idea. Why do only the two traditional political parties get to decide who can run for President? Why do they have duopoly power over our lives? Have a three-stage national election that anyone can enter, with the first and second phases narrowing the field until there are only two people running for President in November. Eliminate the Electoral College and a guaranteed spot on the ballot for the chosen candidate of any political party, and return to right to choose our President to the People, where it belongs! Oh right, the parties of Twiddledee and Twiddledum control our political lives and so would never reform the system that keeps them in power. American democracy has terminal atrophy.

    April 1, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |