South Carolina state Republican party Chairwoman Karen Floyd wants the Republican National Committee to severely punish the Republican party of Florida for its refusal to postpone its scheduled January 31 presidential primary to a later date in compliance with the national parties approved calendar. She has authored a letter to the full GOP suggesting sanctions against the Sunshine State.
Floyd wants the RNC to take away the 2012 Republican National Convention, which is set for Tampa, and send it to another state. The odds of that are slim since tens of millions of dollars in contracts have already been signed and Florida is already risking a predetermined penalty of losing half its nominating delegates for breaking the RNC's approved calendar.
"I do not make any of these suggestions lightly, or with the notion that this idea will not meet with considerable resistance," Floyd said in the letter.
"Even if we choose to take this action as a way to sanction Florida, I am fully cognizant that it may not ultimately dissuade them from the path that they appear to be on -- but as a Party, we must send a strong message that flouting RNC rules and processes will certainly not be met with a reward so significant as the hosting of our national Convention.
For the first time the GOP nominating contests will not be winner take all. The RNC plans to call for states awarding delegates proportionally - the same way Democrats do -- to vote in March and winner take all states to vote in April and beyond.
The RNC approved primary votes for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to be held in February 2012. Everyone else must wait until March.
Florida wants to be an early and influential player and had appeared adament, until late Thursday, about sticking with the January date.
South Carolina, the first-in-the-South state, fought to get Florida's primary pushed later because the Jan. 31 vote would come within a week of the Palmetto State's primary and could overshadow its tradition and history. No Republican has won the nomination without winning South Carolina first.
Florida's decision to hold its primary on Jan. 31 has thrown the national party's plans into jeopardy but did not do anything to prevent Iowa and New Hampshire from remaining first.
The U.S. Consitution grants power to establish elections to be held in the states to the states, rather than to political parties. Iowa and New Hampshire are so important that they will agree to forfeit half their delegates for the historic nature of their roles, but they would likely get all their delegates restored at the convention by acclamation.
More importantly, laws in Iowa and New Hampshire make it possible for them to vote this year if necessary to maintain their first-in-the-nation status.
Nonetheless, the Iowa Republican Party chairman on Thursday concurred with Floyd's letter.
"The contempt that Florida legislators hold not only for the RNC 2012 rules, but also for the RNC members who approved these rules, is astonishing. To reward this arrogance with our national convention is a great disservice to the Republican activists, donors and elected officials nationwide who support the RNC," Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn. "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 added that it is "disconcerting" that Florida's GOP-controlled Legislature "is in effect thumbing its nose at the RNC -- and feels emboldened to do so because of the 2012 convention location."
Responding to the letter, Florida Republican state House Speaker Dean Cannon brushed off the complaints.
"I look forward to meeting Chairwoman Floyd and Chairman Strawn in Tampa next summer," he said.
"It continues to amaze me that Republican leaders in other states feel threatened by Florida in next year's presidential preference primary," Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos said to FOX News. "Idle threats by other states are not productive."
A spokesman for Florida's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the freshman said he stood by his assertion that "Florida should have its primary election on the most meaningful date possible, after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina."
Here is the full text of South Carolina's letter to the RNC:
Fellow Republican National Committee Members:
Taking back the White House in 2012 must be our top priority as Republicans, and as such it is critical that our presidential nominating process must serve to put forward the candidate best able to accomplish that task.
It was with great foresight that in 2008 the Republican National Committee conceived the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, which subsequently worked for nearly two years to put forward a fair and equitable recommendation with regard to states' roles in the 2012 nominating process.
That recommendation was adopted last year by our membership - and, not insignificantly, adopted by a two-thirds vote. This system represents a great step forward in bringing some much-needed predictability to the presidential nominating process, and will help us as a Party to avoid a de facto national primary. I believe that a comprehensive, thorough vetting and nomination process is critical to our efforts to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.
Unfortunately, our Party stands on the precipice of our hard work being rendered meaningless, with the very real possibility looming that Florida's Presidential Preference Primary may be held prior to March 1, in contravention of Party Rules - a move that would precipitate numerous other states similarly violating Party Rules.
As conservatives, we believe in the rule of law, and that rules are made to be followed. To that end, I am sure we all appreciate our state Party counterparts in Florida advocating for the RNC rules being obeyed. But what is disconcerting is the apparent recalcitrance of Florida's Republican-controlled legislature, which is in effect thumbing its nose at the RNC - and feels emboldened to do so because of the 2012 convention location.
According to CNN, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon recently said that he "is not worried about penalties and cannot envision a circumstance in which the RNC refuses to seat Florida's delegation, since the GOP convention will be held in Tampa." Cannon continued, "There is some understandable skepticism about what [the RNC] would do with Florida's delegates."
I give Chairman Reince Priebus great credit for having already stated definitively that the penalties for violating rule 15(b) will be enforced on any state that acts outside the RNC primary calendar, including Florida. Chairman Priebus is also on record as stating that the consequences for states could extend beyond the loss of 50 percent of their delegates, to penalties such as loss of guest passes, hotel location, and floor location.
That being said, based upon the totality of the public statements from Florida's legislative leaders, it is my fear that these sanctions may not be enough to dissuade Florida from the path that they are on. Recently, some legislative leaders in Florida have even floated the idea of a "compromise" by which they would hold their primary in mid-February rather than late-January, an idea that should be unacceptable on its face. One should not get credit for breaking the rules "less" - if Florida holds its contest any time before March, the penalties should still be the same.
This brings me to my purpose for writing you all today:
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.
If Florida refuses to move its primary date into compliance with RNC rules, I am respectfully requesting that the Committee convene a special task force to select a new site for the 2012 Convention outside the state of Florida.
I believe rather than becoming the fodder for strong-arm legislative tactics, the Convention should be viewed and treated as an incredible honor for any state fortunate enough to host it. What's more, we as a Committee have an opportunity to use the Convention as a show of solidarity with Republicans nationwide who are fighting for conservative change and working to unseat entrenched Democratic interests. To that end, I would also suggest the following alternatives to the Committee, should they become necessary:
Liberal forces across the country have mobilized to push back against the conservative, pro-taxpayer reforms being advanced in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana that are aimed at curtailing union power there. What better way to recognize the courageous efforts of conservatives in those states than by having Republicans descend en masse on a city like Milwaukee or Cincinnati for our Convention? In addition, each of these states are critical swing states for our efforts in 2012, and recent electoral trends would suggest that they will be more "in play" than Florida next year. If Florida continues on this course, I believe the Committee should strongly consider relocating the convention to Wisconsin, Ohio or Indiana.
Similarly, we should look at states where our presence could bolster efforts at winning key Senate seats in 2012. Among others, it is critically important that we retake the seat of retiring Senator Jim Webb in Virginia, and defeat incumbent Democratic senators like Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Debbie Stabenow in Michigan. I would humbly suggest that the Committee look toward those states as potential Convention sites as well.
Finally, with Obama having won the once solidly red state of North Carolina in 2008, we must reassert our presence there. Having our convention there would have the added benefit or countering the considerable energy that the Democratic Party is looking to generate in that state by holding their own convention in Charlotte.
I do not make any of these suggestions lightly, or with the notion that this idea will not meet with considerable resistance. Even if we choose to take this action as a way to sanction Florida, I am fully cognizant that it may not ultimately dissuade them from the path that they appear to be on -- but as a Party, we must send a strong message that flouting RNC rules and processes will certainly not be met with a reward so significant as the hosting of our national Convention.
It remains my sincere hope that none of this will be necessary - that Florida will ultimately abide by the rules set forward by our Committee, that we will have an orderly and predictable nominating process, and that we will have a phenomenal convention in Tampa in 2012. If Florida's legislature makes those things impossible, however, it is important to start the conversation now about the alternatives.
Thank you again for all for your continued leadership of our Party and in all that you do. I look forward to working with each of you as we fight to bring conservative leadership back to this country.
South Carolina Republican Party
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.