ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Republican Party officials in four early primary states are warning Florida that if it chooses to leapfrog ahead on the 2012 primary calendar, they will retaliate.
With Florida threatening to hold its primary on Jan. 31, South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said in an interview on ABC’s “Top Line” that he is “absolutely committed” to protecting his state’s first-the-the-South status — even if that means pushing the South Carolina primary into January too.
Connelly would not reveal on Thursday which date he would set.
“I didn’t want to take that initiative today,” he said. “I want to make the rogue states force me into January because I frankly don’t think a compressed calendar is good for anybody.”
Connelly said he would eventually pick a date that will be “as late as possible to keep the calendar as intact as possible and to spread it out enough so that candidates really do get to connect with the voters here in South Carolina.”
According to the Republican National Committee’s own rules, only the so-called “carve-out” states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — can hold their primaries before Mar. 6. States cutting in line face the possibility of losing half their delegates at the party’s national convention next summer.
Republican leaders in Florida indicated this week that they were leaning toward Jan. 31 — a clear violation of party rules.
“This is a compression of the calendar that’s violating the very rules of the RNC,” Connelly told ABC’s Amy Walter and Z. Byron Wolf. “I definitely think there need to be rules that have some teeth.”
What kind of teeth?
Connelly said on “Top Line” that he has already suggested to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus that if Florida wants to play “big boy on the block,” they should lose the chance to hold the party’s national convention in Tampa next summer.
Connelly and his fellow party chairmen in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada issued a joint statement on Thursday condemning “any state’s efforts” push up its primary in violation of party rules.
“The four sanctioned, early states have been very clear that we will move together, if necessary, to ensure order as outlined in RNC rules,” Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said in the statement. “If we are forced to change our dates together, we will.”
The other ”carve-out” state GOP chairs issued similar pledges.
Connelly lamented the fact that if the primary season kicks off in early January, the presidential candidates would be “campaigning the snow in the dead of winter” and during “Christmastime.”
“I think that’s a shame,” Connelly said, adding: ”I think it hurts the voters. We get once less month to really vet out and talk to the candidates and get to know them.”
Joshua T. Putnam, a visiting assistant professor of political science at Davidson College who blogs at Frontloading HQ, also appeared on “Top Line” to discuss developments with the primary calendar.