(Updated at 12:24 p.m. with comment from Iowa and New Hampshire GOP leaders)
Florida state House Speaker Dean Cannon (R) says his state is likely to set its primary for Jan. 31, which would probably have have the effect of pushing the presidential primary process up one month to begin shortly after the New Year.
“We’ve been communicating with the governor’s office and Senate president’s office, and I expect them to pick Jan. 31,” Cannon told The Fix. “Obviously we don’t know for sure until the meeting.
Cannon’s sentiments were first reported by CNN’s Peter Hamby.
Currently, the four early states are slated to go in February, but with Florida moving its date to Jan. 31, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are likely to move their primaries ahead of that date — likely around the same time they were held in 2008, when Iowa kicked off the process on Jan. 3.
Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn today criticized the move but said that it would only increase the importance of Iowa by compressing the entire calendar.
“I hope we don’t have to move up to the beginning of the year,” Strawn told a local blogger. “If we do, we will, but this also just elevates the importance of doing well in Iowa for the Republican candidates.”
New Hampshire Republicans also decried the move, with state House Speaker William O’Brien saying, “Florida may dilute the value of their primary, but we certainly won’t allow their actions to minimize the New Hampshire Primary.”
The move by Florida could also lure other states to move their primaries up. They have until Saturday to do so, according to Republican National Committee rules.
The state commission responsible for picking a primary date for Florida is set to meet Friday, at which point it will make an official decision.
RNC rules say that any state besides the four early states is prohibited from holding its contest before March 6, and by doing so forfeits half of its delegates to the national convention next year. So far, Arizona and Michigan are the only states that have violated that rule, setting their primaries for Feb. 28.
The RNC is reported hoping to strike a deal with Florida that would put its primary on Feb. 21 — immediately after the four early states but not forcing the contests into January.
Cannon said that’s unlikely.
“I doubt it,” he said. “Given the moves that other states have made already, that’s not likely to happen.”