Florida bucks GOP primary schedule, moves its vote to Jan. 31

Florida made its plans to hold its Republican presidential primary on Jan. 31 official on Friday, setting off a reshuffling of the primary calendar as early states scramble to move up their contests to protect their cherished statuses.

A date-selection committee voted 7-2 to hold the primary in January, following a failed vote to hold it March 6 — the earliest date permitted under national party rules.

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The move makes it all but assured that Florida will lose half of its delegates at the GOP National Convention — ironically being held next year in Tampa, Fla.

But those who want Florida to have more weight in the nominating process argue that the attention garnered by holding its primary so early outweighs the importance of the actual convention — they say by the time delegates are seated in August, it is likely to already be clear who the nominee will be, as has been the case for decades.

“Once again, Republicans in Florida have shown a total disregard for bipartisanship and following the rules of the road," said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. "Today’s decision is a slap in the face to their own party and the bipartisan rules agreed upon over a year ago to ensure an orderly primary process.”

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the four states permitted to hold contests prior to March 6, have all vowed to move their dates up to buck the Florida shift.

"The arrogance shown by Florida’s elected leadership is disappointing, but not surprising," Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said in a news release immediately after the Florida vote, adding that Iowa will set the date for its first-in-the-nation caucuses after New Hampshire announces the date for its primary. “Iowa will remain first."

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The front-loading of the calendar also means presidential candidates will likely have to campaign through Christmas and New Year’s Day.

In addition, Arizona and Michigan have both moved to hold their primaries on Feb. 28, also flaunting the national rules. Alaska, Georgia and North Dakota are also considering moving their primary dates.

- This post was updated at 12:33 p.m.