Beyond that, is the presence of non-binding caucuses in Colorado, Maine and Minnesota in early February enough to keep Florida on January 31? Again, the special session stalemate over the presidential primary legislation in Missouri is the impetus for Florida's expected jump back into January after a brief summer respite. The rollercoaster ride of bill passage, vetoes and special session gridlock in the Show Me state throughout 2011 is seemingly the biggest roadblock now to the national parties' efforts to have a delayed start to the 2012 presidential primary calendar (relative to 2008).
A few other notes on the Missouri situation:
Some are questioning the legality of a potential move away from a primary to caucus in Missouri. As has been mentioned elsewhere, there is nothing in the Missouri Revised Statutes that requires the results of the state's presidential primary be used as a means of determining the allocation of delegates. There is a good reason for that: Delegate allocation is something that is left up to the parties to determine. Granted, most everything in the presidential primary process is left up to either the state or national parties to decide. A nomination is, after all, a party function not a state one.
What puts the states in conflict with the parties is the issue of most state parties opting into a state-funded primary election. Opting in brings with it state control over dates of the contests but not necessarily who can participate (see Tashjian v. Republican Party and California Democratic Party v. Jones). If a state party does not like the date of the state-funded primary it can opt out and pay for its own primary or caucus. That is what happened in Nebraska and Montana recently. In both cases, the state-funded primaries were only advisory. Republicans in Nebraska have merely used the May Nebraska primary as a beauty contest prior to a later caucus/convention process. The same was true for Montana Republicans in 2008. The June primary was merely for show following February caucuses that began the true delegate selection process. Washington Democrats likewise have also not utilized the state-funded primary as a means of allocating delegates since a voter initiative brought the presidential primary into existence in the 1990s. There are plenty of precedents Missouri can cite if challenged on a for-show primary along with a consequential caucus process.
The state is unlikely to object to the move other than, perhaps, on financial grounds. Millions of state taxpayer dollars will go to fund a meaningless election in February that likely won't go over well, but neither would further expenditures by the state for legal fees in a futile lawsuit. The RNC won't object either. A switch to a caucus system -- particularly one that is compliant with the party's timing rules -- would get the RNC closer to its ideal calendar. In fact, it is likely a safe assumption that the RNC has been leaning on the Missouri GOP to jump to a caucus system in the time since it became clear that the presidential primary legislation in the General Assembly was going nowhere. It keeps with the standard line the RNC provides to calendar questions; that the national party is working to keep all states in (or as close to) compliance with the timing rules.1
Can the primary to caucus switch be made? Yes. Will it bring Florida back from the brink? Probably not. But we shall see.
1 The initial Florida-to-January-31 story from CNN did make mention of the RNC attempting to broker a February 21 Florida primary. Those discussions likely included some mention of a Missouri switch. And that probably indicates, more than anything else, that the three non-binding caucus states are a problem to Florida because the reaction to the February 21 proposal was panned by those tied to the PPPDSC in Florida.