In an effort to be at least 5th on the presidential primary calendar next year, Florida's select committee voted Friday to officially hold their state's primary election on January 31st of 2012, leap-frogging their initial RNC sanctioned date, and ensuring a mad dash by other states to keep their elections ahead of the Sunshine State.
Florida lawmakers including Speaker of the State House Dean Cannon said the move was made to protect the right of Florida primary voters in determining the next Republican nominee, and to emphasize the significance of Florida. With its 29 electoral votes, Florida is seen by many as the most important swing state of the 2012 general election.
An RNC spokesman said that any state that sets its calendar dates in violation of the party's rules will be penalized half their convention delegates. Ironically Florida is set to host The 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa next Summer.
Florida's decision has irked the first four traditional "carve out" states of Iowa , New Hampshire, Nevada and especially South Carolina, which shares the south east region with Florida. South Carolina officials argue it threatens their "First in the South" primary status.
"Today's decision by Florida is hugely disappointing and could have been avoided. Rogue states have once again dictated the Presidential nominating calendar," South Carolina GOP chairman Chad Connelly said in a statement. "I call on my fellow RNC members and all Republicans to strongly condemn Florida's decision to hold their primary on January 31."
Connelly, who is solely responsible for setting the state's primary, added that the South Carolina GOP would announce their new primary date later on Friday. A GOP source says that they will likely set it for January 28th, four days ahead of Florida. However, South Carolina could move it to the proceeding Tuesday , January 24th, if they feel they need more cushion from other rogue states.