South Carolina, Iowa GOP Party Chairs Threaten Florida: Push Back Primary Date Or Risk Losing Republican National Convention

Mar 31, 2011 11:00am

ABC News' Michael Falcone reports:

UPDATED The leaders of the state Republican parties in two influential early nominating states — South Carolina and Iowa — called on the Florida legislature on Thursday to move back its proposed date for the state’s 2012 presidential primary or risk losing Tampa as the site for party’s national convention.

“Our Party stands on the precipice of our hard work being rendered meaningless, with the very real possibility looming that Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary may be held prior to March 1, in contravention of Party Rules,” South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd wrote in a letter to all members of the Republican National Committee on Wednesday. “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.”

Florida has scheduled its primary for Jan. 31, leap-frogging ahead of other early states including Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. States could lose delegates to the Republican National Convention by cutting in line.

The 2012 GOP Convention is to be held in Tampa in 2012.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn joined with Floyd in demanding that Sunshine State legislators push their primary date back.

“The contempt that Florida legislators hold not only for the RNC 2012 rules, but also for the RNC members who approved these rules, is astonishing. To reward this arrogance with our national convention is a great disservice to the Republican activists, donors and elected officials nationwide who support the RNC,” Strawn said in a statement. “RNC Chairman Priebus has worked diligently with many states to ensure compliance with the 2012 rules, but there must be consequences to the continued slow-walking by Florida legislators to get their state in compliance with rules passed by over two-thirds of RNC members.”

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning Floyd, whose state has traditionally held the first presidential primary in the South, said she was “pleasantly surprised by the responses” of her fellow Republican National Committee members to her proposal.

She said she had been in communication with top Republicans from Iowa and New Hampshire, and while she said she "preferred not to speak on their behalf" she characterized the conversations as positive –"there's strength out there beyond one person.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has promised to enforce sanctions on any states violating party rules on the RNC primary calendar. As Floyd noted in her letter, “consequences for states could extend beyond the loss of 50 percent of their delegates, to penalties such as loss of guest passes, hotel location, and floor location.”

“Why would you reward a state with an honor that is not abiding by rules that were established over a two-year protracted compromise process?” she told reporters. “I would love ot have the convention in Florida if they abide by the rules.”

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball declined to go as far as his Iowa and South Carolina counterparts in threatening to strip Florida of the convention, saying that "saner minds must and will prevail."

"If Florida will simply follow the calendar, they’ll be in a decisive position to pick the next Republican nominee," Kimball said in a statement to ABC News. "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. I am confident saner minds must and will prevail.”

Former Nevada governor and current Republican national committeeman Bob List also weighed in on Thursday, saying "here must be consequences to states that choose to blatantly break" the rules.

“The Republican Party is no place for outlaws. The action of any state stepping out of order challenges the integrity and general success of the nomination process which was authorized and approved by members of the RNC," List said in a statement. "I am confident that the RNC will take action and preserve the status of the designated early states."

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