Thursday, March 31, 2011

Same Thing, Different Month, Louder Trumpet: SC, FL & the 2012 Calendar

Well, it must be the end of the month because South Carolina Republican Party Chair Karen Floyd is back in the news calling on the RNC to strip the state of Florida and the city of Tampa of the 2012 Republican National Convention if the state legislature in the Sunshine state doesn't reschedule the state's presidential primary to a date that is in accordance with national party rules. And now she has Iowa Republican Party Chair Matt Strawn condemning the inaction in Florida as well.

This differs very little from what Floyd said at the end of February. It's just more formal now -- a letter to the RNC -- and has the added element of exempt state unity -- sans New Hampshire and Nevada.1 First of all, I would be surprised -- bordering on shocked -- if the RNC pulled up its roots in Tampa and took the convention somewhere else. Not only would that draw additional resources in the form of start-up costs somewhere else away from the national party -- resources it will desperately need in an election against the president -- but the snub would in no way help with organizational efforts in a state that is more than likely going to be huge competitive and possibly decisive on the presidential election outcome. By the way, Florida knows this and that's why they are calling Floyd's bluff.

So is this a big deal? No, not really. Republican Party members in South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada will only go along with the national parties' rules as long as there are no other states threatening their status. Florida, and others just a week later, are filling that threat role quite well. The underlying issue is penalties. If Florida holds its current position, that causes the exempt states to move to earlier dates. But the move by the exempt states would put them in violation of the national party rules and, as in 2008, would open them up to the same penalties that face Florida (losing half the delegation). That's what this is about. South Carolina wants to prod Florida into action to avoid penalties that would arise through no fault of their own.

The unfortunate thing for South Carolina's Republican Party is that Florida has proven that it is more than willing to play brinksmanship with the national party and any other states in their way. The feeling that is seemingly emerging from Florida is that legislative leaders there are daring the national party to penalize the state. But that dare is affecting other states, too. That's the issue. If Florida stands pat, the four exempt states leapfrog them and the RNC doesn't penalize Florida, well, they cannot justifiably penalize South Carolina or New Hampshire either.

Florida holds the trump card.2 It isn't fair, but state-level actors in the Sunshine state know how important the state is to the GOP's chances of taking back the White House in 2012. Florida will use that to their advantage, and at the end of the day, the RNC is very likely to go along with it because of the general election implications. All Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can do is can move up. Fairness will take a back seat when the potential for winning is threatened. That threat is bigger to the RNC than the threat to the four exempt states.

Sit back and enjoy the ride South Carolina; Florida's legislature adjourns in May.

1 Well, New Hampshire GOP chair Jack Kimball did make a statement, but he has nothing to do with the timing of the primary in the Granite state; not in the same way that Floyd and Strawn have in the selection of a primary or caucus date in their respective states.

2 Florida isn't really to blame here. As I pointed out earlier, there are other states that have done nothing to change the dates of their delegate selection events. The bottom line is that the RNC knew or should have known where Florida was positioned and adjusted their rules and/or calendar accordingly.

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