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Two Republican officials suggest yanking GOP convention out of Florida if state doesn't change primary date

Republican state chairs from South Carolina and Iowa say Florida should be punished if it doesn't push back its 2012 primary to a date that is in line with national party rules.

March 31, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Two prominent state Republican officials are calling on the Republican National Committee to pull the party's 2012 convention from Florida if the state does not agree to move its presidential primary date.

At issue is the protected status of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as the states leading off the presidential nominating calendar. The RNC, seeking to avoid the early start and frontloaded calendar of the 2008 presidential campaign, voted to require all but four states to set their primaries and caucuses no earlier than March 1.

But Florida, which moved its primary in 2008 to late January, has threatened to remain there despite the national committee's warning that it would not seat the state's delegates. The Florida GOP believes, however, that the committee would be hard-pressed to refuse to seat those delegates at a convention being held in Tampa, and that certainly the eventual presidential nominee would not want to spurn voters in the critical state.

Worried that existing sanctions are not enough of a deterrent, South Carolina Republican Party Chairwoman Karen Floyd has asked RNC chair Reince Priebus to consider a new convention site.

"Rather than becoming the fodder for strong-arm legislative tactics, the convention should be viewed and treated as an incredible honor for any state fortunate enough to host it," Floyd writes. "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."

She suggests Priebus' home state of Wisconsin, site of a national battle over collective bargaining rights, as one potential alternate venue, as well as Ohio and Indiana, two other states where Republican governors are waging fierce battles with labor unions.

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn echoed Floyd's suggestion.

"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," he said in a statement. "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."

Jack Kimball, the New Hampshire GOP chairman, stopped short of joining his colleagues, however, saying "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. 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," he said.

According to the RNC-approved calendar, Iowa is scheduled to hold its caucuses on Feb. 6, 2012, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 14, Nevada caucuses on Feb. 18, and South Carolina primary on Feb. 28.

Florida is currently scheduled to hold a primary on Jan. 31, though there is a proposal in the GOP-controlled Legislature to move it to March.

"It continues to amaze me that Republican leaders in other states feel threatened by Florida," state Senate President Mike Haridopolos said in a statement. "I have said all along that Florida does not want to jump the traditional early states of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina or Nevada. We simply want to go fifth."

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, who was mentioned in Floyd's letter, was more succinct.

"I look forward to meeting Chairman Floyd and Chairman Strawn in Tampa next summer," he said.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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