Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Florida, Some Chatter Behind the Idea of a Thursday Presidential Primary

This is technically old news, but it is something that quietly came out of some comments that RNC Chair, Reince Priebus, made earlier in June. That was on the cusp of FHQ's mid-June break and thus slipped through the cracks. Yet, it is still something that warrants some discussion.

According to Adam Smith, political director at The St. Petersburg Times on the paper's political blog, The Buzz, one idea that has been talked about to some degree in Florida to help the Sunshine state potentially avoid sanction from the RNC is to hold a Thursday, March 1 presidential primary.

Republican leaders (Democrats have no say) are determined to be the fifth contest (after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) and not bunched up with a bunch of other states. One idea we've heard lately is March 1 - a Thursday - which might enable Florida to comply with the RNC, avoid penalties, and perhaps also avoid sharing the stage with other states.
We wouldn't bet any money on that though. The study committee appeared aimed mainly at taking the pressure off the RNC and buying some time before causing the nominating calendar to implode. A February primary in Florida still seems like a [sic] strong possibility.
FHQ agrees with Smith that a February primary is still the most likely outcome at this point, but the Thursday idea is intriguing (an idea that came out of earlier discussions in Georgia as well). In fact, we have speculated here that Georgia might try and piggyback on Florida's date, forcing a subregional primary just outside of the window in which the parties allow non-exempt states to hold primaries and caucuses.

One thing that should be made crystal clear here is that a March 1 primary will not help Florida avoid penalties from the RNC unless the RNC opts to bend its rules slightly (something Priebus said would not happen in his comments in early June). All contests other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina must fall on a day on or after the first Tuesday in March (March 6). A Thursday primary would help Florida to avoid infringing on the early states' turf, but it would not bring the state into compliance with the national party rules.

Florida's Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee's decision will be determined to a great extent by what happens with the primaries in Arizona and Michigan. Arizona is seemingly locked on at least February 28 and Michigan Republicans will decide in August on when and how to allocate their delegates. If Michigan jumps into January, that will likely keep Florida there as well.

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