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Special Report

Politics of Presidential Primary Calendar

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 31, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN FLOYD, SOUTH CAROLINA GOP CHAIRMAN: If Florida doesn't 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Talk about the political hardball. That is South Carolina GOP chair Karen Floyd on a conference call today saying if Florida insists on breaking party rules and holding its primary next January, then Republicans should take their national convention away from Florida.

And we're back now with the panel. So, A.B., the RNC set some rules early on, they said only the first four. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, could go in February. Everybody else had to go later. The idea is to start later in the season, and not have this big jumble and now Florida is talking about -- we're going to go in January, which means that everybody else would go even earlier in January. How big a deal is this?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: It's a very big deal. Florida is obviously a heavyweight state in the process and feels that it can position itself with the support of Senator Marco Rubio and others, to say we're going to jump the calendar. And no matter what you say it doesn't matter.

But really, this is such an indication, what a disaster it would be if the RNC tried to take the convention away from Florida, at this point, to punish them for breaking these rules. This is the kind of thing that should have been worked out in advance. Finding a way to make the states -- to compel them to comply with these rules, really should have been done earlier. And it's an illustration of how weakened the RNC has become in a party that's leaderless. It really needs a highly functioning RNC. And this has become a huge liability.

WALLACE: Now, A.B. said, well boy it would just be terrible if they took the convention away from Tampa. -

STODDARD: Now?

WALLACE: They've already signed millions of dollars in contracts. I mean this is a pretty empty threat, isn't it?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's a completely empty threat. If you want to be a party that says it should be in control of the White House and the country, and the trillion dollars budget -- a $4 trillion budget and you can't even get your ducks in a row to put on a show next year and you take it away from Tampa and you disappoint one of the most important states in the country, you haven't exactly made a good case for yourself.

There is no way that is going to happen. What will probably happen is what happened last time around, they will try to cut the number of delegates in half. And then after it's all over, everybody will be forgiven and it will be allowed, the full number will be allowed. There is no way to stop this, unless the Florida party comes to its senses, and there is no indication of that right now.

WALLACE: Well there is some talk, I must say, I think it's the speaker of the - Republican speaker in Florida who's saying, well, maybe we'd settle for going fifth. So maybe this is a way to rush not ahead of the first four but to ensure that they go fifth.

Let me switch to the other interest subject involving Republicans, Steve, and that is debates. The first debate is gonna be five weeks from tonight in South Carolina, Greenville, South Carolina, the Republican GOP debate on Fox News. But now the RNC is saying, gosh, there are so many different organizations, news organizations, other organizations, maybe we've got try to get control of this and limit the number of debates.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, I think the RNC wants to limit the number of debates. I think, the front-runners, or the repudiated front-runners would like to limit the number of debates. Like Mitt Romney, who doesn't have to take shots from 20 candidates on the stage 20 times before the nomination actually unfolds.

And I actually think that the debate question in terms of the RNC is a little less significant than the delegate question -- than the Florida question. Because I agree with Charles. I think it's unlikely that the RNC can really do much, aside from make phone calls and try to persuade Floridians to change it. So I think that is going to be a bigger sticking point for the Republicans.

WALLACE: A.B., take us inside the campaigns and Steve touched on this, but which candidates want more debates starting earlier and which candidates want fewer debates starting later?

STODDARD: The candidates who are considered sort of the outer tier want more notoriety and they want to get in there and start punching. Someone like Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, they're going to be interested in these debates, maybe Donald Trump, Herman Cain.

And then you look at the other governors who are working to establish serious candidacies, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, I don't know about Mitch Daniels at this point. But they really are gonna want to wait to see how the field settles and they're gonna want to have debates maybe later after some of the low-hanging fruit is gone.

And I see the argument for an abbreviated debate season. But it's again, another thing the RNC really can't control and if they wanted to, they should have thought about it a little bit earlier in the season.

WALLACE: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: It shows you how weak our parties are compared to a Canada or a U.K. where this would never happen. In those the parties it's all top-down. Ours are completely, sort of anarchic. And particularly the RNC, if you don't have the White House, the party is weaker than ever. I agree. I think the best way to alienate the electorate is to have 20 debates in the year before the election, which is a way to expose all of the foibles and the weaknesses, particularly of the ones who will probably end up as the most likely nominees.

It's the fringe candidates who are going to be provocative and aggressive as a way to get notice and attention. The best example of that is Huckabee, who in the last round was thought to be extremely unlikely and ended up in the top tier. That is the objective of every one of the minor candidates.

And what is going to happen major ones, the ones who have the best shot will be taking hits for 20 debates over a year. It's not going to help the party.

WALLACE: That is it for panel. By the way, did I mention that the first debate is right here on Fox on May 5?

Stay tuned to see the shocking video of what twin babies are really saying when they don't know someone is watching.

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