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House committee will look Monday at moving back Florida’s presidential primary date

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The Florida House’s Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee is set to consider a proposed committee bill Monday that would move both of the state’s partisan presidential primaries back to the third Tuesday in March, to March 15.

The later primary elections — which will coincide with the mythical ides of March when no less a leader than Julius Caesar was felled by former political allies — will prevent Florida from being an early bellwether state like its smaller counterparts in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa, but will allow the state to award all of its delegates to one candidate, as opposed to the proportional distribution scheme that governs earlier primaries.

That means a strong Floridian candidate like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio could amass all of their home state’s hundreds of delegates in one fell swoop.

The new proposal, PCB RCEC 15-05, would represent an entirely new gambit for Florida within the real-life game theory of presidential primaries.

Under the leadership of former Speaker Dean Cannon, the House irritated both national parties by moving up the 2012 state primaries to January 31 in order to gain early sway for the mega-state, which he argued was far more representative of the nation writ large than many other early states.

The Legislature’s defiant move to make Florida’s primaries earlier led to some perverse consequences during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, when the weight of GOP delegates was reduced significantly and some delegates found themselves posted dozens of miles from the venue in a retaliatory move by the RNC, even as the floor action was happening in their own backyard.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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