Republican presidential hopefuls Ron Paul, left, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney,… (Scott Audette / Reuters )
South Carolina's Republican presidential primary will be held on Jan. 21, the state GOP chairman announced on Monday.
The decision to advance the traditional first-in-the-South contest from late February follows the vote by a Florida panel to set its primary for Jan. 31, in violation of party rules.
"Last Friday, a nine-person committee brought chaos to the 2012 nomination calendar. Today, South Carolina restores order," party chairman Chad Connelly said at a news conference.
After a frontloaded 2008 nominating calendar that started Jan. 3 in Iowa and saw more than two dozen states voting in early February, both the Republican and Democratic National Committees established rules calling for most states to wait until March while preserving the role of leadoff states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Republicans called for sanctions of half a state's allotment of delegates to the national convention if they broke the party rules. Florida, which hosts the convention next summer, nonetheless acted to move up in an attempt to secure its position as the fifth state.
Connelly said that even though South Carolina now also faces the loss of delegates by moving into January, he thought it was important for his state "that we remain first in the south."
"South Carolina Republicans have a 30-year track record of picking the eventual presidential nominee. We will continue that historic tradition," he said.
Nevada Republicans over the weekend also reaffirmed their intention to hold caucuses on the Saturday after New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary. That, however, would violate New Hampshire law that requires a seven-day buffer after the state's Tuesday vote.
Also in response to Florida's move, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner on Friday moved the candidate filing period into October and did not rule out holding a primary in December.
Iowa Republicans said they would wait until New Hampshire sets its date to determine when its caucuses would be; they are typically the week before New Hampshire.