Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chairman Bitner’s Statement on Florida’s Republican Primary

Tallahassee, FL: Republican Party of Florida Chairman Dave Bitner released the following statement on Florida’s Republican primary.

“As chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, my primary concern is what is in the best interest of Florida and Florida Republicans. I commend our Legislature for standing up for Florida voters, by ensuring we have an early voice in the presidential primary process. Florida is one of the most economically and financially diverse states in the nation and provides the perfect litmus test for selecting the most viable Republican presidential nominee. As the largest swing state with 29 electoral votes, Florida is critically important to the 2012 presidential election.

There are many reasons why Florida should have an early and significant role in selecting the Republican presidential nominee, yet I understand the Republican National Committee is looking to maintain an orderly primary calendar. Governor Scott, President Haridopolos, Speaker Cannon and I have expressed a willingness to work with the RNC to find a primary date that both respects the calendar while preserving Florida’s role in the process. We all agree that moving the primary into late February, making Florida fifth on the calendar, would sufficiently meet both criteria. I remain optimistic and committed to continuing to work with the Legislature and the RNC to resolve this issue.”

We have had a slow move toward the possibility of scheduling a late February presidential primary for a little over a month now, yet it was still unresolved enough to elicit a rather strong response from the chairpersons of both the South Carolina and Iowa Republican Parties. I'm not sure that the above statement really puts that fire out.

First of all, the Florida legislature is working under something of a time crunch. They are set to wrap up business for 2011 in early May. In other words, the Republican Party of Florida, the legislature there and the RNC have about a month to cut a deal of some sort. Florida legislators and other Republicans in the state want the Sunshine state primary to be positioned so that the party and its voters have maximum say over the Republican presidential nomination race. But for Florida to insert itself into a late February primary position without losing delegates would mean that the RNC would have to bend its rules for Florida. If the rules can be bent for Florida, why not in New York or Michigan or Wisconsin -- states whose legislatures have year-round legislative sessions and who have to alter their primary dates to comply with national party rules. And what about Missouri, where a plan to move to a week after New Hampshire is still on the table? A veto of that bill, should it also pass the Missouri House, would keep the Missouri primary on February 7, a day after Iowa's proposed date.

There won't be a full scale rush to the front in response to Florida in late February -- most state legislatures are confined at that this point in the legislative season -- but there are still some cracks to fill in in a little more than a month to ensure that Florida will not only come to the table on this issue, but get a move pushed through quickly. That would require some assurance from the RNC that the aforementioned February states will move sometime during 2011. Can the RNC guarantee the Florida GOP that those other states will move also? Maybe, but maybe not in a month.

This statement doesn't end this saga; it only keeps it going. It all begins with Florida, but it goes elsewhere across the country first before hopefully, from the RNC's perspective, ending with Florida. We shall see.


astrojob said...

Two questions (that are not actually about this post, but the blog in general):

1) I was wondering if we could get a "clock is ticking" post on New York at some point. It's the biggest of the early primary states that we haven't heard anything from them yet. I know the legislature meets all year, but are there any particular deadlines in the state for the introduction of legislation?

2) In the calendar on the lefthand sidebar, I notice that Washington is currently listed as May 22nd. When did this happen? I thought the bills in the legislature were just to eliminate the primary, and that it was tentatively still in February, like in 2008, when both the primary and caucus were in February.

Josh Putnam said...

I apologize for the delayed response. But in answer to your questions, MP:

1) The remaining "clock is ticking" posts are still on my radar. They just weren't as pressing as the others in the series posted thus far. I'll try and get one or two of those up a week throughout April.

2) Washington was added to that line on the calendar when I went back and looked at the law in the context of the series of bills there to cancel the 2012 primary. Previously, I had treated Washington as having been up in the air because the parties had continually proven since the 1990s that they would choose a date prior to that point. But the law does give the parties the option of using the May date or coming together to select an alternative. That alternative seems unlikely with the cancel bill in the state Senate gaining momentum in recent weeks. If the primary is postponed until 2016, then, the date change on the primary will change from May to the times in which the two parties decide to hold caucuses.