Florida officially announced Friday that its Republican presidential primary election would be held January 31, in violation of the Republican National Committee's guidelines. The RNC said it would punish any states (aside from the four traditional early primary states) that held a primary before March 4.
The special committee's decision, which was all but confirmed earlier this week but only made official today, could trigger punishment from the RNC and will almost certainly push the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to move their primaries earlier. With early January primaries, campaign staffers will likely have to work through the holidays.
Florida's decision to try and harbor political influence with an early primary is not inviting any goodwill from other states hoping to hold their own primaries early in election season.
Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn reacted to Florida's move with an angry statement to Politico. Iowa will not announce the date of its final caucus until New Hampshire announces its primary, traditionally the first in the country.
"The arrogance shown by Florida's elected leadership is disappointing, but not surprising," Strawn said in the statement. "Equally troubling is to see this petulant behavior rewarded with our national convention. The consequences of Florida's intransigence must be swift and severe, including the refusal by the RNC to credential or seat any member of Florida's presidential primary date commission at the 2012 RNC convention in Tampa.
Thursday, South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly vowed that his state would be the first primary in the south.
“You’d think that the Florida legislature, instead of trying to move their weight around and play bully on the block, that they would actually say, ‘Hey, we’ve had two debates, the whole world’s been watching," Connelly said. "Nobody is going to ignore the state of Florida. We’ve got the convention. Let’s let this calendar stay intact.’”
The Republican National Committee has not yet announced any sanctions against Florida.