Florida Poised to Wreak Havoc With Primary Schedule--Again

Sunshine State's refusal to reschedule primary could give GOP a taste of what Democrats endured in 2008

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The 2008 Democratic presidential primary was famously thrown into chaos when the Florida state legislature voted to leapfrog traditional early starters Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and schedule the state's primary for January 29. Hillary Clinton won the primary, but the DNC refused to seat the state's 210 delegates at the party's convention. Eventually a compromise was reached and the delegates were seated, but with only half a vote. (Republican delegates from Florida received a similar punishment at the party's convention in Minneapolis.)

Despite efforts from both the DNC and RNC this summer to guarantee Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina their plum pre-Super Tuesday positions, Florida officials are gearing up for a fight, letting it be known the state has no intention of changing the date of its primary, currently scheduled for January 31, 2012. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for February 6 and the New Hampshire primary for February 14.

"I happen to think the position we're in right now is the correct one,'' State Senate president Mike Haridopolos, a Republican, told the Miami Herald. “We're going to most likely decide the president of the United States and it would make most sense if we did it early in the process. I'm still open to discussion on it. The good news is we have the convention here in Florida." The Herald notes that "National Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus has urged Florida Republican Party chairman Dave Bitner to move the date back for 2012" to no avail.

Florida pols do have at least one ally at the national level--newly-elected Senator Marco Rubio, who has drawn 2012 speculation of his own.  "As long as the voters of Florida are going to pay for this election," remarked Rubio to the Palm Beach Post, "it should be on the most meaningful day possible. An election in late January costs the same as an election in April, but it's a lot more meaningful."

The reaction from editorial boards in New Hampshire, though, has been predictably scathing. Calling Florida and other states "jealous" of New Hampshire's place in the process, the Concord Monitor notes that "the GOP convention is scheduled to be held in Tampa next summer--a prize that Florida might find even more important than those delegates." But "surely the Republicans won't allow a state that flouts the rules to host the party's biggest party of the year." The Nashua Telegraph, meanwhile, isn't happy about the possibility that New Hampshire might have to move its own primary up to beat Florida.

For obvious reasons, Florida's refusal to change dates would have a greater impact on Republicans than Democrats in 2012. And at least one GOP hopeful seems okay with the move: "I don't purport to give other states advice on how they run their elections or their primaries," said Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty during a recent visit to Tallahassee. "That's up to them."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.