S. Carolina re­takes pri­mary pri­macy, bumps Florida from ‘first in the South’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

The bat­tle of the pri­maries in­ten­si­fied on May 22 when South Carolina Repub­li­cans an­nounced they will re­tain the first pres­i­den­tial pri­mary in the South by jump­ing ahead of Florida’s newly set Jan. 29 con­test.

Their de­ci­sion trumps Florida’s at­tempt to hold its pri­mary much ear­lier than all but four other states and likely will force New Hamp­shire to hold its pri­mary a week or two ear­lier than its ten­ta­tively set date of Jan. 22 and pos­si­bly af­fect Iowa’s cau­cuses on Jan. 14.

“We have the lat­i­tude as a party of set­ting our own pri­mary dates and we are go­ing to move our pri­mary ac­cord­ingly be­fore Jan­uary 29 to en­sure that we are the first in the South,” South Carolina Repub­li­can Chair­man Ka­ton Daw­son told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“I’m not wor­ry­ing about an­ger­ing any­one else. Re­mem­ber, this is a state that started the Civil War. We are not wor­ried about of­fend­ing any other state. We’re go­ing to pick a date and let the chips fall where they may,” Mr. Daw­son said.

The move has set off a domino ef­fect in the early pri­mary states that threat­ens to re­scram­ble the sched­ule and force the na­tional par­ties to level penal­ties on the states that hold their pri­maries or cau­cuses be­fore Feb. 5.

In mov­ing up the pri­mary date, Florida Repub­li­cans had sought to be the first large state to in­flu­ence the out­come of their party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion race, de­spite warn­ings from the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee (RNC) that they would lose half their del­e­gates to the na­tional party con­ven­tion in 2008 if they pro­ceed with their plans.

Florida’s Repub­li­can state chair­man, Jim Greer, told The Times two weeks ago that the party is will­ing to ac­cept any penalty for its de­ci­sion, but said talk in the party’s in­ner cir­cles sug­gests that the even­tual nom­i­nee would ask the RNC to waive such penal­ties.

Mr. Daw­son said his plan to move up the Repub­li­can pri­mary in vi­o­la­tion of the rules means that “we would also lose half our del­e­gates, but we are pre­pared for all that be­cause this pri­mary is im­por­tant for South Carolina and for all Repub­li­cans.”

How much ef­fect the emerg­ing pri­mary scram­ble will have on the early con­tests re­mains to be seen. Florida’s move ini­tially did not seem to trou­ble New Hamp­shire vot­ing of­fi­cials.

“I un­der­stand why [Florida is] do­ing it and that’s OK,” New Hamp­shire Sec­re­tary of State Bill Gard­ner said on May 21, adding that he would wait un­til this fall to set an of­fi­cial date.

New Hamp­shire’s pri­mary law does now al­low any other pri­mary to be within a week of its first-inthe-na­tion pri­mary, and South Carolina’s move likely will force the state to hold its pri­mary much ear­lier, Mr. Daw­son said.

“I’m sure they will have to move their date up,” he said.

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