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Presidential Primary Calendar in Peril as Florida Insists on Early 2012 Date

4 years ago
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A top Florida Republican says his state will likely hold to a Jan. 31 date for its presidential primary next year, upsetting the campaign calendar that traditionally has Iowa and New Hampshire leading off the season.

"I think we belong at the beginning of the national conversation about who the next president is," Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon told CNN on Thursday. ". . . I am aware of the risks, and people say it should be moved later, but I definitely favor keeping it early rather than moving it back like the parties are saying."

If Florida sticks to its plan -- despite protests from the national Republican and Democratic parties -- Iowa officials may be tempted to move up that state's caucuses, now set for Feb, 6, and the same thing could happen in New Hampshire, where the primary is now scheduled for Feb. 14. Nevada and South Carolina are next in line, with all other states ordered by the parties not to hold elections before March 1.

Cannon, noting that the Republican National Convention will be held next summer in Tampa, said he isn't too worried about sanctions from the national GOP. But he said Florida could consider moving back the primary date "a little bit, if the end result, whatever that date is, keeps Florida at the beginning or early in the dialogue." Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is lobbying the state to stick to the rules, protecting the Iowa and New Hampshire dates. And Florida Gov. Rick Scott seems amenable to a compromise, the National Journal said.

In recent campaigns, officials in some states have scrambled for early primary dates to shine a spotlight on their regions while the presidential race was still competitive. In 2008, the urge to go early pushed the Iowa and New Hampshire contests ahead to just days into the new year, which forced candidates, their aides and reporters to spend time during the holidays on the campaign trail.

Unless a formidable primary challenger emerges to take on President Obama, the Republicans have far more at stake than Democrats in this argument, since Obama's nomination for a second term would be all but assured.

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