South Carolina GOP sets presidential primary date, trumps Florida

Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 4:28 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 2:04 AM
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COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s first-in-the-South presidential primary will move to Jan. 21 to trump Florida’s rule-breaking jump ahead in the party’s calendar, the state’s Republican Party chairman said Monday.

Also Monday, South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly called on the Republican National Committee to impose heavy penalties against Florida.

Florida already stood to lose half its delegates for its rules-defying move Friday to hold a Jan. 31 contest as it strives to gain more relevance on the primary calendar. South Carolina’s move would bring the same penalties.

“I think they ought to lose all of their delegates,” Connelly said. “It ought to be such that candidates look at it and go, ‘Should I really go and spend all that money?’ ”

He is still fuming over losing a month on the calendar to raise money for his party and for voters to interact with candidates. South Carolina Republicans have to foot much of the bill for a primary estimated to cost more than $1.2 million. Already, counties around the state have threatened to sue if they don’t get enough cash to cover their costs of running the primary.

South Carolina had been poised to hold its primary Feb. 28. Connelly said he’s going to face the same delegate penalties as Florida. “Obviously, I’m pushing back on that hard, and I’m just getting started,” Connelly said.

Florida’s move also has forced New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa to move up their contests. Connelly said the states conferred Saturday about their moves, but he would provide little detail and left it up to those states to reveal their own dates. Connelly confirmed that Iowa wouldn’t move the first-in-the-nation contest into December.

South Carolina’s move, with a Saturday primary 10 days before Florida’s, makes the 2012 calendar look more like the 2008 schedule with Iowa’s caucuses likely just days into the year.

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