SC Rep. Wilson doesn't back RNC convention move

South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson (R) said he doesn't support his state party chairwoman's push to have the GOP convention moved out of Florida as punishment for the date of its 2012 primary.

Florida's presidential primary is currently set for late January of next year, placing it before the traditional lead off states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

"If Florida refuses to move its primary date into compliance with RNC rules, I am respectfully requesting that the Committee convene a special task force to select a new site for the 2012 Convention outside the state of Florida," Karen Floyd, chairwoman of the South Carolina GOP, said in a letter to the Republican National Committee.

Her comments were echoed by Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn, who on Thursday called for a "re-opening of the process to select the site of the 2012 RNC Convention" if Florida's primary remains in January. 

Wilson insisted he doesn't want to see Florida usurp South Carolina's traditional position.

"I'm very much in favor of South Carolina retaining its first-in-the-South position," the congressman told The Ballot Box Thursday. "We need to maintain the current schedule of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina."

Wilson said some punitive measures should be considered, but not shifting the convention to a different state.

"I would actually favor us moving our date before I would do any retaliation," he said. "There should be pressure put [on Florida], but the bottom line is that the Republican Party of Florida should see that it's in the interests of the country, and for the party, that the current system be in place."

The Iowa caucuses are currently slated to be held in February 2012 and have traditionally marked the beginning of the presidential nominating campaign. Florida is supposed to wait until early March to hold its vote, but has kept it slated for January, which is the same month it held it in 2008.

Florida's move last cycle caused a frontloading of the primary calendar, which Wilson said disrupted the rhythm of the campaign. "It made it very difficult for the candidates because of the Christmas activities to focus on the campaign," he said. "The schedule we have now, which would be in February, is much preferable to me."

There is the possibility this scheduling conflict will be resolved peacefully. Florida GOP Chairman Dave Bitner issued a statement Thursday encouraging state lawmakers to move into compliance with the RNC rules. "We all agree that moving the primary into late February, making Florida fifth on the calendar, would sufficiently meet both criteria," Bitner said, "I remain optimistic and committed to continuing to work with the Legislature and the RNC to resolve this issue."

On Friday, Floyd dismissed Bitner's remarks.

"What Florida is suggesting now is akin to being pulled over for going 90 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone, and telling the police that you are willing to slow down to 70. Rules are rules, and hopefully my colleagues at the RNC will reject this idea on its face, and continue to insist upon tough and meaningful sanctions that could include the loss of the convention," she said in a statement.

"The RNC cannot endorse -- even tacitly -- the idea of Florida holding its contest any time before March 6. Doing so sends a terrible message to other states that legislative temper tantrums will be rewarded rather than punished -- and it flies in the face of everything we believe in as a Party about the rule of law."

--Shane D'Aprile contributed to this report.

--Updated at 7:03 p.m.