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Florida Moves Primary to January, Others Likely to Follow

Miami voters weigh in on a 2010 primary. Photo by AFP/Getty.

Florida is now first on the 2012 calendar, but it’s not expected to stay there for very long.

The Sunshine State Friday set its primary for Jan. 31, 2012, in defiance of Republican and Democratic Party rules, a decision likely to result in the four states authorized to go first in the nominating process — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — to move up the dates of their contests.

Those four states are the only ones approved by the two parties to hold their primaries or caucuses before March 6, 2012.

Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry said the date selected “properly reflects the importance Florida will play on the national stage.”

“Florida will be the most important state in our efforts to defeat Barack Obama,” Curry added.

The move irked Republican Party of Iowa chair Matt Strawn, who released a sharply worded statement calling on the Republican National Committee to penalize Florida by refusing to credential or seat any member of the state’s delegation at the party’s convention next year, which is set to take place in Tampa.

“The arrogance shown by Florida’s elected leadership is disappointing, but not surprising,” Strawn said.

“Regarding the timing of the First in the Nation Iowa Caucuses, Iowa will remain first,” Strawn added, saying the Hawkeye State would finalize its plans once New Hampshire sets a date for its primary.

New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner said Florida’s move meant the Granite State would have to adjust its plans, with the first step being an earlier filing deadline.

“Because we cannot rule out the possibility of conducting the primary before the end of this year, we are, regrettably, as we were four years ago, forced to move the presidential candidates filing period to October,” Gardner said.

The two-week presidential filing period in New Hampshire is now set to begin Oct. 17 and run until Oct. 28.

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly also issued a blistering statement regarding Florida’s action.

“Rogue states have once again dictated the Presidential nominating calendar” Connelly charged. “I call on my fellow RNC members and all Republicans to strongly condemn Florida’s decision to hold their primary on January 31.”

On Thursday, Connelly said he planned to schedule the Palmetto State’s GOP primary as close to the Florida contest as possible — probably Jan. 28.

If that date holds, one potential scenario could look like this: Iowa holding its caucuses on Jan. 9, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 17 and the Nevada caucuses on Jan. 21.

A similar calendar scramble occurred in 2008, when Florida and Michigan scheduled their primary dates earlier than had been sanctioned by the parties. Democrats ultimately agreed to seat Michigan and Florida delegates with half votes while Republicans stripped away half of the delegates from the two states.

Find more coverage on our politics page.

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