The Problem with Moving the Florida Primary in 2008

Among his 100 ideas, Floria House Speaker Marco Rubio (R-Miami) wants to move up Florida’s presidential preference primary – to the first Tuesday in February or one-week after the New Hampshire Primary, whichever comes first. He is having Rep. David Rivera (R-Miami) run the bill for him.

The problem? Florida is not alone.

By February 5, 2008, as many as 26 states could have held presidential primaries. Twenty-six. Alabama. Arkansas. Arizona. California. Colorado. Delaware. Florida. Idaho. Illinois. Iowa. Michigan. Missouri. Montana. Nevada. New Hampshire. New Jersey. New Mexico. North Carolina. North Dakota. Oklahoma. South Carolina. South Dakota. Utah. Texas. West Virginia. Wyoming. More than half the states, and 2/3rds of the population. Super Duper Tuesday indeed.

What does that mean? Well, it certainly diminishes the importance of any one of them — and improving the importance of Florida is the reason for moving up the primary. It could very well be moot.

It also means that only the well-financed and high-profile candidates can compete. Clinton. Edwards. Obama. McCain. Giuliani. Romney. Everyone else can pretty much pack their bags now.

The competition various states are showing will effectively create a national primary. Smaller states can be ignored again. Candidates can concentrate on a few states and play spoiler. The candidates will be airing attack ads before Christmas. It is even possible that no candidate in either party will win enough delegates to secure the nomination. Could you imagine if both parties had convention floor fights? Oooh that would too much fun.

Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

It’s more interesting when you consider the interaction between Florida, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points it out clearly (hat tip to Capitol Hill Blue):

Next year, under the current schedule, the bill would put the Sunshine State primary on Jan. 29, which would not automatically force a move by New Hampshire. But the Florida plan doesn’t sit well with the South Carolina Republican Party, which is determined that its primary be the first in the South. It is a party-run rather than state-run process, and the GOP chairman has the flexibility to set or move its date. A spokesman for the state party said last week that the chairman anticipates making the scheduling decision in September.

To make good on its pledge of being first in the South, the Palmetto State GOP would have to move ahead of Florida, meaning that its date could be seen as a trigger to the New Hampshire requirement that its primary take place seven days before any other.

Something has to give. The dictates of the two state laws and the South Carolina vow can’t all be reconciled. A move by New Hampshire would trigger a move by Florida, which would in turn prompt a move by the South Carolina Republicans.

It really is a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

Now consider that the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee can completely ignore the results. They have the power to say which games are official an which are now – much the same way that the Florida Gators’ victory over Ohio State was not officially sactioned by the NCAA.

As a Florida voter and politico, I would love to be in a state that actually matters in the presidential selection process. Moving our primary is the best way to do that, and I would probably agree with the Tallahassee Sentinel on this subject. Alas, I can not.

All 50 states can not act independently on this.

The best solution I have seen was proposed by the National Association of Secretaries of State: a rotating series of four regional primaries, with each region having the chance to vote first every four cycles. Rob at Interstate4Jamming outlined a similar idea last month. Yet the plan was originally proposed in the 1990s. Yet here we are, facing a real potential problem with the primaries.

Florida should not move it’s primary date to try to be more important than other states. Speaker Rubio should, instead, find a way to bring the national parties to the table and work out a schedule that is fair to the voters in all states.

Otherwise, our selfishness only adds to the problem.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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3 Responses to The Problem with Moving the Florida Primary in 2008

  1. I’m glad you came around to this. It’s a dumb idea. The DNC and RNC aren’t going to let Florida move up the primary. Super Tuesday was created to make more states competitive. Next states are going to want to move primaries to Christmas of the previous year.

    I rather see the electoral college ended. Candidates would go to states with the biggest populations. That means Republicans campaigning in California and Democrats in Texas. Nixon’s Southern strategy would slowly disappear. Greater numbers of people are in the Northeast. The Republicans can’t run the xenaphobia issues like immigration and compete. Your party would freak if the Senate attempted to strike the EC from the Constitution.

  2. voxpopuli says:

    I agree with above and I think it is so much more blarney that Florida wants to push the primaries up.
    Given the questions of stolen elections (yada yada blah blah but we can all read and we all know …) .. this just makes me feel that those who steal elections want to give the helpless sheeple more time to get ‘used’ to who will be president.

    Florida already matters in elections. We’re the vaunted ‘swing state’ that our esteemed former governor and Katherine Harris stole for his brother. Rep. Rubio and Sen. Martinez would not be among the Republicans I admire but I’m trying not to pre-judge Rubio. Why? I’m generous.

    This move also makes it impossible for any other candidate to get a leg up as you stated. I don’t want to be stuck with some monied democrat when there are other guys we can run.

    I DO like the idea of convention floor fights. I’d like it if Congress cared enough about the issues to duke each other out as they did in the 1800’s. (although I abhor violence, the spirit of the thing would be so much better; as though something MATTERED)

    I also found it odd that this was the first thing out of Rubio’s mouth as if it is all that matters.

    Something this important really needs to be gone over.
    Why now?
    Why all of a sudden all this motivation for the primaries? Coasted along for years the same and suddenly everything changed (2000). What gives?
    I’m not asking you these questions but you can feel free to address them. They are questions I ask myself when I wonder why the speaker would make this his top priority.

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