Florida House Speaker Vows To Keep Early Primary Date, Which Could Mean Earlier Start To 2012 Election

By Kristina

Feb 17, 2011 5:58pm

ABC News' Amy Walter reports: In an interview with CNN, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon (R) said “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.”

Florida’s primary is currently scheduled for January 31. Iowa’s first in the nation caucus is scheduled for February 6, with New Hampshire holding its primary eight days later on February 14. If Florida decided to keep its primary on January 31 or even any time in February, it’s more than likely that those two states – as well as the other sanctioned “early states” of Nevada and South Carolina – would feel compelled to move up the dates of their primaries/caucuses to keep their coveted status as lead-off states in the nomination process.

In Florida, the legislature has the power to set (or reset) the date of the state primary. According to RNC rules, any state that holds its primary earlier than March 1 loses at least half of its delegates. But, says Cannon and other Florida legislative leaders, it’s a price worth paying for having a significant role in helping select the next Republican nominee.

Earlier this month, one Florida Republican insider told ABC News that there was “not a lot of interest” by Republican legislators in “playing by the rules.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus recently travelled to Florida to urge the state to pick a later primary date. Governor Rick Scott (R) has not yet taken a position on the issue.

The legislature is expected to take up this issue in March or April.

Meanwhile, there are 28 other states like Florida where the legislature sets the date of the state’s primary. And, unlike 2008, the date a state chooses to host its Republican primary will have a significant impact on its ability to impact the nomination fight.

According to new rules passed by the RNC last summer, any state that holds its primary on April 1st or later will be able to award its delegates on a winner-take-all basis. If a candidate wins the primary or caucus, even by just one vote, that candidate will win all of that state’s apportioned delegates. But, in a new twist for the GOP, any state that holds its primary or caucus between March and April will be able to award its delegates on a proportional basis – a process similar to the way that Democrats apportion their delegates.

Why does that matter? It could mean that it will take longer for a candidate to rack up the required number of delegates need to win the nomination and sets up the potential for a drawn-out Republican primary in 2012 similar to the epic battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the winter and spring of 2008.

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