Chad Connelly, the South Carolina Republican Party chair, said Thursday -- before the Florida move, but when January 31 was considered a near lock for the Sunshine state primary -- that the party would shift to a point that was ahead of Florida, but that was as late as it could possibly be held. Connelly's 2007 counterpart at the helm of the party, Katon Dawson, allowed ten days between the January 19 South Carolina Republican primary and the January 29 Florida primary. In 2012, though, a full ten day cushion is a result that will get a fair amount of cross-pressure from the Republican National Committee. South Carolina on January 21 pushes Nevada up to January 14 pushes New Hampshire up to January 3 or 10 pushes Iowa up to a date between December 26 and January 2.
Each of the early four states is in the midst of a delicate dance to carve out a calendar position that gives them each a piece of the spotlight and provides them with enough time to bask in it. The spotlight is there, but the time is what is at stake now in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. All four want to avoid a situation where they force any of the other early states into or have to hold contests in December. If the goal is to preserve the early status, those four states have to find a way to work out their differences and schedule their contests in the now-30 day window that Florida has given them.
As fourth in line, South Carolina is the first to move. But how much space between the South Carolina Republican primary and the contest in Florida is enough? Chad Beam at The State has an extremely succinct rundown of the complications in the primary date calculus facing Chair Connelly and his party:
Earlier this week, Connelly said if Florida “pushes us real hard, I’m going to cut them off as close as I can,” scheduling South Carolina’s primary as close as possible before Florida’s primary in an effort to diminish the attention that state’s race gets. In theory, leaving little time between the two primaries, makes it more difficult for a candidate to lose South Carolina and, then, overcome that loss and win Florida.
But it’s a dangerous game.
If Connelly picks a date that is too close to Florida’s Jan. 31 primary, he could force candidates to choose between Florida and South Carolina. And, if he pushes the S.C. date too early into January, then he could push caucuses and primaries in the other early-voting states – Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada – into the Christmas holidays.
That notion of being too close to Florida and forcing candidates to choose between the two has to weigh heavily on the decision-making calculus in South Carolina. There are two constraints here. One is that South Carolina wants to go as late as possible, but not too close to Florida. Secondly, South Carolina can push only so far forward without negatively affecting the other three states who have yet to decide. If January 21 is too early and January 28 is the latest possible date that South Carolina could conceivably hold its primary without going on the same date as Florida, then that is the window in which we are looking for possibilities. If the intent is to keep the primary on a Tuesday or a Saturday, then Tuesday, January 24 and Saturday, January 28 are the only real possibilities.
But to find out for sure, check back in here at 11:00 in the morning.