Legislators in Gov. John Kasich's home state voted to move the Ohio primary contest back one week, from March 8 to March 15, a change that could benefit Kasich if he's in the presidential race. That one-week shift allows Ohio to award its 66 projected delegates to the primary winner, instead of dividing them up among the top finishers. According to Republican National Committee rules, states with primaries before mid-March have to divide their delegates proportionally.
"I think that certainly back home in Ohio, folks that have known John Kasich for many years will do what they can to be supportive," said Franklin County Republican Party chairman Doug Preisse, a longtime Kasich supporter who recently traveled with the governor as he visited Georgia and South Carolina. "And if that means taking a look at the primary schedule and trying to best position Ohio in that array to support the hometown hero, I think our legislature is responsive to that."
Kasich's team and lawmakers in Ohio insist that the governor had no involvement with the legislation. Still, Kasich is expected to sign the bill soon.
Meanwhile, Arkansas lawmakers recently passed legislation to bump the state's primary up from May to March 1, the earliest day the RNC permits states not named Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold their nominating contests. Arkansas, home of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, will now officially join a handful of other states for a coordinated "SEC" primary—named after the Southeastern Conference college sports league—on that day, aimed at giving the region greater sway in the 2016 election. (Unlike Ohio, Arkansas and its counterparts will have to allocate their delegates to candidates proportionally.)
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who supports Huckabee's presidential bid, approved the bill Friday. The South has been friendly territory for Huckabee, so his team views the burgeoning regional primary as an important part of his potential path to the GOP nomination.
"We know it's not just a matter of winning one or two states right off the bat; it's a long process of winning states and piling up delegates," Huckabee adviser Alice Stewart told National Journal last month. "And there's definitely a game plan for winning those SEC states where he's popular and where his views are reflective of the people there."
Florida, a state four GOP presidential hopefuls once called home, is typically near the front of the primary calendar, but in March, Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure moving the state's primary from March 1 to March 15. That made Florida a winner-take-all state in 2016, giving Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio prime opportunities to pick up 99 delegates in one home-state primary win.
That prospect already has some of Bush and Rubio's potential Republican rivals considering whether they should even bother competing in the state. Last Tuesday, Scott Walker told radio host Laura Ingraham, "I don't think there's a state out there we wouldn't play in, other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are." Later in the week, Walker walked those comments back in an appearance on Fox Business, saying he's "not conceding anywhere."