2012 is just over the horizon and the GOP presidential primary calendar is once again deteriorating into a messy game of truth or dare.
South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly took to the statehouse steps in Columbia on Thursday and vented his frustrations with his colleagues at the Florida Republican party. "South Carolina will not set a date until Florida sets a date... The ball is in Florida's court," said Connelly.
GOP officials in the Sunshine State have long maintained that as a big, diverse and crucial swing state, Florida should have a greater role in the nominating process. To that end, in 2008 the Florida moved its primary up to late January, in violation of RNC rules.
Florida's gamble paid off in 2008, as Arizona Senator John McCain's win there all but sealed his path to the GOP presidential nomination. Later that year, after much wrangling, all of Florida's delegates were seated at the party's national convention.
The Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee have since agreed that only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would be allowed to hold their contests "early," specifically in February of 2012.
For their part, GOP officials in Florida has been telegraphing their intentions to jump ahead for months. "We have been in contact with the governor's office and the senate president and we expect the commission to meet on Friday... and I expect that they will pick January 31st as Florida's primary date," Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon told FOX News.
South Carolina has long held the coveted "First in the South" presidential primary and the state's GOP officials are reacting as many in the political world suspected they would; with incredulous outrage. "I'm very disappointed in Florida," said Connelly. "If they want to be the bad guy go ahead."
Connelly maintains that South Carolina will move its primary ahead of Florida's if need be, but will not make an announcement now that would put them in violation of the RNC rules. Those rules stipulate that any state which moves ahead of February will be punished with the loss of half of its delegates.
All this is very reminiscent of 2008, when Florida moved up to January 29th, which forced officials in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to follow suit. This in turn had presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa over the Christmas holiday, an uncomfortable situation for all involved.