South Carolina and Iowa GOP chairs call for RNC to look at moving 2012 convention from Florida

at 11:34 AM ET, 03/31/2011

Updated, 3:35 p.m.

The chairs of the Iowa and New Hampshire Republican parties are calling for the Republican National Committee to consider moving its 2012 convention from Tampa because Florida is threatening to break RNC rules by jumping to the head of the line in the GOP presidential nominating contest.

In a letter to other members of the RNC, South Carolina Republican Party Chairwoman Karen Floyd said that the convention should not be awarded to a state that is flouting RNC rules.

“Simply put, if Florida does not respect the process by which our primary calendar was set, the RNC should not be bound to the process by which the convention site was selected,” Floyd said in the letter.

Following the release of that letter, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said he agrees.

“If Florida refuses to move its primary date into compliance with RNC rules, that consequence should be the re-opening of the process to select the site of the 2012 RNC Convention,” Strawn said in a statement.

But the idea appears to be a non-starter. RNC chief of staff Jeff Larson said no such change would be made.

“The convention will be in Tampa,” Larson said in a statement. “At the same time, we will enforce the rules agreed to by all states with respect to the primary and caucus calendar.”

Changing the location of the convention – Floyd suggests Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina or Virginia, citing the key races in those states – at this point so late in the game would be very difficult for the RNC. The convention was awarded 10 months ago for the August 2012 convention, meaning preparations are well underway already.

Much of Floyd and Strawn’s effort appears to be geared toward applying pressure to Florida, which would be infringing on territory reserved for Iowa and South Carolina, along with two other states – New Hampshire and Nevada. Those four states are the only ones who have RNC authorization to hold their primaries before March 1; Florida’s primary is currently set for Jan. 31.

On a conference call Thursday morning, Floyd says she has talked with New Hampshire GOP Chairman Jack Kimball, as well as former Granite State GOP chairman John Sununu, about the proposal.

Kimball sounded a more conciliatory note than Floyd and Strawn. “The suggestions that the convention may be moved from Tampa, or that their delegates won’t be counted – I’m sure none of that will come to pass,” he said. 

Florida’s current primary date would place it ahead of all other states. It has entertained the idea of moving its primary to the first week in March, but state Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) has said he wants his state to be the fifth state in the process.

That’s tough to guarantee, given that other states are free to move their primaries at will. And, as happened in 2008 with Florida and Michigan, others may be willing to flout party rules in order to move up.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has already warned Florida that it is in violation of RNC rules, but hasn’t gone so far as to threaten any kind of sanctions.

The national committee can threaten to strip states of their convention delegates if they cut in line in the primary process, but in 2008, that didn’t prove to be an iron-clad deterrent.

Floyd says she’s “pleasantly surprised” at the response she has gotten from fellow members of the RNC for her proposal.

“The convention in Florida is an honor,” she said on the conference all. “We have a situation where Florida is not willing to abide by the rules of the RNC committee members adopted by a two-thirds vote. We need to look at alternatives.”

Florida Republicans, for their part, seeme nonplussed by Floyd’s proposal. ““I look forward to meeting Chairman Floyd and Chairman Strawn in Tampa next summer,” said Florida state House Speaker Dean Cannon.

 
Read what others are saying