The vote by the Florida House of Representatives last week to back a plan moving the state's 2008 presidential primary to January 29 has provoked a response from the South Carolina Republican Party. In my Florida post late last week, I largely focused on Florida horning in on the national Democratic Party's plan to include South Carolina's primary in the pre-window phase of the presidential primary calendar. The state's Democratic primary is the one scheduled for the 29th; the one with which Florida's would directly conflict. The Republicans follow on a few days later on February 2, the Saturday before the de facto national primary on February 5.
There are a couple of things at play here. One is that South Carolina is one of just a few states who have party-run presidential primaries. What that means is that the state parties are the ones in charge of setting up and financing the election and not the state legislature. This ultimately gives a state like South Carolina more freedom in avoiding legislative wrangling over whether and where to move a presidential primary that may plague other states. If the party feels like the move is in the its best interests and if the benefits of moving outweigh the national party sanctions associated with the potential move, then it is fairly easy to make the move happen.
The other thing is a bit of an oddity. It is that the Republicans are the party discussing a move and not the Democrats. That may be attributable to a South Carolina Democratic Party reluctant to move from the choice position in which the Democratic National Committee allowed them to set up shop for 2008. Now the GOP in South Carolina would certainly see a loss of attention because of Florida's primary before and the "national" primary after, but at least the primary would be the only thing in town on that particular Saturday. And the party's chairman, Katon Dawson, is not just talking about moving according to The State in Columbia, he is talking about a monumental shift to an October 2007 primary to protect the state's nominating status.
There have been straw polls late in the calendar year prior to a presidential election year in the past, but these events never had anything to do with the distribution of convention delegates. This proposed move would certainly alter that. Talk recently has had New Hampshire moving up, forcing candidates to campaign during Christmas, but if the South Carolina GOP follows through on their threat, candidates may be forced to share door time with candy-seeking kids on Halloween.
There is no word out of Concord, but at this rate, New Hampshire may hold their primary next week.