When we last had occasion to speak about the chaotic state of the 2012 primary calendar, the state of Arizona, under the direction of Governor Jan Brewer, had decided to move their primary up to February 28, 2012. That decision -- in violation of Republican National Committee guidelines that stipulated that Arizona was not allowed to have its primary before March 6 -- earned the ire of of the South Carolina GOP, which wasn't too keen on sharing its extra-special early primary date with an interloper.
At the time, it was easy to imagine that other states might follow Arizona's example and mount their own challenges to the sanctity of the dates accorded to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. "Florida comes to mind," I warned.
Florida is now expected to hold its presidential primary on the last day in January 2012, a move likely to throw the carefully arranged Republican nominating calendar into disarray and jumpstart the nominating process a month earlier than party leaders had hoped.
Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon told CNN on Tuesday that a state commission exploring potential primary dates is likely to choose January 31 to hold the nominating contest.
If that happens, it would almost certainly force the traditional early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to leapfrog Florida and move their primaries and caucuses into early- to mid-January.
That's from CNN this morning, which reported that GOP officials in Florida will be meeting this Friday. Cannon says that he "expect[s] that they will pick January 31 as Florida's primary date." Florida does so knowing that this will push the early states earlier into January -- their aim is to make it so the Sunshine State remains fifth on the primary calendar, because they believe that will make Florida the decisive state in the nominating process.
The RNC is apparently willing to work with Florida on this, giving them a February 21 date that preserves the turf of the early primary states, but CNN reports that Florida is "wary of states like Colorado, Georgia and Missouri, which are threatening to hold primaries or caucuses before February 21." And if Florida makes the jump, it could touch off a stampede of states moving to earlier and earlier dates. The more Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are encroached upon, the more likely it becomes that everyone involved in the GOP primary will be spending the holidays in Des Moines.
Traditionally, states that violate the primary rules have their delegations decertified or halved, but as things stand, the RNC has already balked at imposing rigorous sanctions against wayward states. Republican officials in South Carolina and Iowa have asked RNC officials to consider taking the Republican National Convention away from Florida as a punishment for violating the calendar, but one has to imagine that plans for the Convention are already far enough along to make that suggestion a non-starter.