In the final days before states submit their primary and caucus plans to the Republican National Committee, the GOP is sweating bullets over the possibility that a gang of rogue states could still wreak havoc on the 2012 presidential nominating process.
One state, Arizona, has already announced that it will violate RNC rules and hold its primary on February 28 – a full week before joint RNC-Democratic National Committee rules permit states to do so. Michigan’s legislature is also moving toward scheduling its vote for the same date.
Then there’s Florida, a repeat offender when it comes to calendar mischief, which has empaneled a committee to choose an election date that’s expected to fall before the RNC-sanctioned date of March 6.
The RNC cutoff for states to schedule their elections is October 1—and some states may even blow that deadline.
Florida wants to play a lead role in the Republican presidential beauty pageant with the P5 straw poll, a nationally televised candidate debate and a gathering of conservative celebrities in Orlando this week. And if party leaders have their way, the mega-state won't be giving up the microphone.
Clearly, it's the perfect time for the state's GOP leadership to thumb its nose at the Republican National Committee and set an early date for its 2012 primary.
Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon have agreed to a mid-February date -- moving Florida into the fifth spot after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and ahead of Arizona, which broke with the national party's calendar and set its primary for Feb. 28.
"We should not try to leapfrog the official early states, but we should be no later than fifth and have our own unique date," Cannon, R-Winter Park, said last week. "That helps maintain our prominence as probably one of the most important litmus tests for anyone who wants to win the primary and the White House."
Florida has waited until now to make its move because lawmakers last spring delayed setting a date, instead creating a "Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee" that will hold its first meeting this Friday – just when Orlando will be rocking the CPAC rallies and straw polls.
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