Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida reports: A state committee tasked with selecting a date for the presidential preference primary will meet Sept. 23, setting up a potential confrontation between Florida Republicans and the national party.
Members of the committee are expected to be named beginning tomorrow. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said he would announce his appointments then, while a spokeswoman for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said his selections would be made “in the next few days.” Gov. Rick Scott will also appoint members to the panel.
The committee will meet amid competing pressures: The normal urge to leap-frog other states in an effort to vie for influence in selecting the GOP nominee, and an edict from the Republican National Committee that states follow a predetermined calendar or risk being stripped of some delegates to the summer convention. That step would be particularly awkward in relation to Florida, which will host the Republican convention.
Cannon has recently insisted Florida’s nominating contest be fifth — after traditional early states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — even if that means breaking the RNC’s rules. Other state leaders have also backed an early date, saying the largest swing state should be a major factor in deciding which Republican gets the nomination.
Arizona has already moved its primary up to Feb. 28 — earlier than allowed by the RNC and in direct competition with the date set aside for South Carolina’s vote. Outside of the four early states, no state is supposed to hold its nominating contest before March 6. Michigan is considering a similar move, and South Carolina has threatened to respond by moving its date up, which could set off a chain reaction.
Florida’s primary was tentatively set for Jan. 31 — a date that would leapfrog all the other states and is almost certain to be changed by the committee. But the state’s GOP officials who control nominees to the panel have signaled they still plan to have influence in the process.
“Arizona broke the rules, but that doesn’t change Governor Scott’s position,” press secretary Lane Wright said in an email. “Florida is going to play a major role in the presidential election and we’re going to have a primary date that reflects that.”
Lyndsey Cruley, a spokeswoman for Haridopolos, echoed that sentiment.
“Additionally, the president firmly believes that Florida’s primary date should be early enough that our state plays a key role in the selection of presidential nominees,” she said.
Cannon told the Associated Press that, “I’m less preoccupied with what the date is, as long as we are no later than fifth.” A spokeswoman confirmed Cannon meant that the state should be fifth even if that required breaking the rules.
The committee meeting would happen in the middle of the party’s Presidency 5 event, meant to highlight its potential crucial role in the nominating process. If Florida goes fifth, it could prove to be a decisive battleground between the two front-runners, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who is expected to fare well in Iowa and South Carolina — and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who will be favored in New Hampshire and perhaps Nevada.
A second meeting is set for Sept. 30, the day before the calendar has to be set under Florida law.