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GOP to punish Florida at nominating convention for holding early primary

tampabayforum_123111.jpg

Dec. 31, 2011: Shown here is The Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the Republican National Convention, in Tampa, Fla. (AP)

Florida's delegates to the Republican National Convention are getting snubbed in their own house, after the national GOP decided Wednesday to ramp up penalties on the state for holding an early primary in violation of party rules. 

Though Florida is hosting the party's national convention in Tampa later this year, a Republican National Committee panel voted unanimously to give the state's representatives second-class access to the whole affair. 

Under the resolution, the national party will make sure Florida's delegates have poor seating and poor hotel options -- as in, hotels that are not close to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the convention venue. According to an RNC official, the delegates will also be limited in the number of guest passes they can hand out. 

The Rules Committee voted for the sanctions Wednesday, and the RNC official said no further action is needed to carry out the punishment. 

"They will be penalized with reduced guest passes, reduced priority seating on the floor and hotels further away," the official told Fox News. 

A Florida Republican official claimed the national party still has to take one more step to finalize the penalties, but suggested there would be no hard feelings going into November. The official said the state party will "do nothing but (commit) ourselves to making sure that a Republican wins the state of Florida." 

The latest penalties would come on top of the hit the Sunshine State already took to its delegate count. 

The state is expected to lose half its 99 delegates as a result of its decision to hold the Republican presidential primary on Jan. 31. 

Under RNC rules, Florida was not supposed to hold what's known as a "winner-take-all" primary before April. That's a primary in which all the state's delegates are awarded to the winner, as opposed to one in which the delegates are awarded proportionally. 

The very beginning of the 2012 primary calendar is also supposed to be reserved for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Florida's decision to get in on the early primary action follows a similar move in 2008, and a similar punishment by the RNC. 

Leonard Curry, chairman of the Florida GOP, said in a statement that he's hoping to move forward despite the new penalties. 

"I understand why today's vote took place and we will continue to work to protect Florida Republicans' interest at the national convention," Curry said. "With today's action, I hope that all Republicans can move together, unified and committed to the most important goal we have -- the election of a Republican president in 2012." 

When the state party first announced the date in September, Curry said the early vote "properly reflects the importance Florida will play on the national stage."

A true swing state, Florida, with its 29 delegates to the Electoral College, is considered essential to win the general election. Barack Obama won the state in 2008.

Fox News' Jake Gibson and FoxNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.

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