Florida Presidential Primary To Move up? by Mitch E. Perry

12/12/06

On a local public affairs show broadcast over the weekend, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean warned that if Florida moved its presidential primary before February 5th, Florida Democrats could lose delegates, and any candidate who campaigns in the Sunshine State would have to forfeit delegates.

But both Democratic and Republican officials say that if Florida does move up its primary from its current March date, it would take place on February 5th, 2008, at the earliest.

That’s what GOP State Representative David Rivera has said. Rivera was recently named by House Speaker Marco Rubio to lead the state’s Rules and Calendar Council. Political analyst Darrell Paulson says this isn’t the first time that state officials have tried to have Florida’s Primary more relevant to who the country selects as its party’s nominees (roll tape#1 o.q.�")

The Iowa Caucusas in late January, followed the next week by the New Hampshire Primary, have opened the Presidential Primary calendar for decades. Although there’s been much criticism having an inordinate amount of power, the calendar has not really been changed.

However, the Democrats announced in August that they were going to wedge in Nevada in between Iowa and New Hampshire, with South Carolina shortly thereafter in 2008.

The move is intended to give greater voice to Latinos and Blacks in the election process. But the altered schedule poses risks. New Hampshire is threatening to ignore the committee’s plan by moving its primary even earlier, despite the Democratic Party would punish candidates who campaign in states with schedules that violate Party’s rules.

Aubrey Jewett is a professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida. He says that an argument for diluting Iowa and New Hampshire’s influence is that – opposed to Florida –those states don’t really represent America in 2006 (roll tape#2o.q. “we’re just too dang big�)

The move to push Florida’s March Primary to February is being led by top state officials – Governor Charlie Crist and Senate President Ken Pruitt –both Republicans.

Democrats say they on board for an earlier contest, but according to Allan Katz, a Tallahassee City Commissioner who serves on the Democratic National Comitttee’s rules and bylaws committee, when Nevada and South Carolina were awarded their earlier placements in the Presidential Primary season, Florida Democrats chose not to compete (roll tape#3 o.q.�didn’t happen�)

WMNF called the Florida Democratic Party for comment regarding their lack of interest in bidding for an earlier primary. We did not receive a callback by air time. Florida is not the only big state vying to move up in the Presidential calendar to have more influence on who the nominees will be in 2008.

California and Michigan are also vying to move up as well. DNC member Allan Katz says he feels the Party has already done its job of broadening the presidential field (roll tape#4 o.q.� the candidates better�)

Up until recently, Iowa and New Hampshire were key states, but certainly not deciding ones…But presidential campaigns now begin much earlier than they used to, and in 2004, John Kerry’s upset victory over Howard Dean seemed to be the beginning and the end of the nominating process.

And University of Central Florida Political Science Professor Aubrey Jewett says there are some old –school parts of politics that makes Iowa and New Hampshire still relevant roll tape#4 o.q.�baptism by fire�)

The Florida Republican Party is also contemplating a non-binding straw poll convention at some point next year. The Democrats do not have any such plans.

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