The Importance of the Florida Primary (UPDATED)

Today the Republican Party of Florida said they will likely move forward with an early primary. According to CBS News:

” A spokesperson for Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon tells CBS News that the commission appointed to select the state’s presidential primary date is expected to announce on Friday that the Florida primary will be January 31, 2012.”

(NOTE: See update below, a memo from the Florida’s RNC National Committeeman  explaining the situation.)

The road to the White House runs straight through the Sunshine State. In order to claim victory in the 2012 Presidential race, a candidate must win the pivotal swing state of Florida and its 29 electoral votes. With its unique demographics, Florida’s is a snapshot of America.

Northern Florida, and particularly the Panhandle, is representative of the American South. Central Florida is a growing community and unfortunately facing economic challenges. Its’ politically powerful “I-4 Corridor” is a cultural mix, which includes large numbers of Puerto Ricans and Latin American Immigrants. And you must not forget The Villages, a microcosm of Florida’s politically active Senior Citizens. Those over 65 years young make up nearly one in five Florida voters . Many Southwest Floridians are former mid-westerners and young suburban families. The electorate in South Florida is cultural melting pot, with high levels of Northeastern transplants and vocal immigrants groups, including Cuban-Americans and growing populations of young independent Central Americans, South Americans and Haitian-Americans.

Having an early and strong presence in Florida will help the GOP nominee win in November, and secure those crucial independent voters. Democrats make up 41 % of the Florida’s registered voters. Republicans makeup 36 % of the electorate. Nearly a quarter of Florida’s voters have elected not to register with either party. Florida has large minority populations, Hispanics make up over 15% of the electorate, and African-Americans represent over 12% of voters. The state continues to be a toss up, securing victories for both political parties, including President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and Governor Rick Scott.

With its multiple media markets, regional diversity and contrasting demographics, Florida is an expensive state to win. Yet, a candidate will not win the White House without the support of Florida voters.

UPDATE: Late Wednesday night a county chapter of the Republican Party of Florida emailed a memo from Paul Senft, Republican National Committeeman From Florida explaining why moving the primary was a bad idea. I wanted to share his thoughts, and his breakdown on how the shift will impact the overall primary. MORE AFTER THE JUMP

MEMO from Paul Senft, Republican National Committeeman From Florida

 RE: Why Moving Florida’s Presidential Primary To January 31, 2012 Hurts Our State

As was outlined unanimously by all the commentators on Fox News at 6PM – It makes no sense for Florida to move up to January and blow up the Presidential Primary Calendar. They all agree that we will be the first large and diverse state to go and with our full complement of delegates we will be more significant.

Since a story was leaked today saying that we were going to hold our primary on January 31, 2012, my phone and email have melted down. I, therefore, have been asked to do one summary to help inform people about our position. The only thing others will say is that going early will help Florida be more significant. I would submit that we will be less significant because no candidate can get momentum from the few delegates they will get from Florida. Further, how much more significant can we get than hosting the convention?


  • Our full allotment of delegates is: 99
  • After the three officers are removed our base becomes: 96
  • Cutting us as the penalty, we get only: 48

The rules require proportional allocation of delegates as follows – Example:

  • Candidate “A” gets 30% of the vote would get 14 delegates
  • Candidate “B” gets 20% of the vote would get 10 delegates
  • Candidate “C” gets 15% of the vote would get 7 delegates
  • Candidate “D” gets 10% of the vote would get 5 delegates
  • And so on until the 48 delegates are gone.

The rules as adopted by the RPOF do not define proportionality – thus the RNC will decide on our definition of proportionality for us. The RNC is on record stating that they will honor the rules of state parties if proportionality is limited to state wide at large delegates. They indicated the Congressional Districts could still be awarded on a winner-take-all basis. The RPOF did not choose to define proportionality at all.

With the total delegates available in the six or seven states that are attempting to go before Florida, there will only be 212 delegates available. With a normal distribution of delegates among the candidates it is probable that several candidates will have 75 or 80 delegates if they are in the lead. Florida would be in a position to really lock up the lead and momentum for a candidate if it voted to go March 1,2,3,4 or 5 and still had its full allotment of 99 delegates. There is no penalty provided in the RNC Rules for those five days. It would be possible, with the proper definition of proportionality for a candidate to get 60 to 80 of Florida’s delegates and thus have a nice lead. (Again IF we were at full strength)

If Florida goes as early as is being discussed (January 31), we will have little, if any, impact on the delegate count for any candidate. Further, we will be slapping the RNC in the face after they gave the convention to Florida and we have not given the new rules a chance to see if they work.

Republicans have always been law abiding people who obey the rules. If we don’t want to go by the rules – if we want to be arrogant and only abide by the rules we like or agree with – then we should consider another party. As long as we are a member of the Republican Party we should go by their rules. If we want to change things, we should do it through the proper channels and procedures, not break the rules because we think we are better than other states. I agree that we have better demographics and are more representative than some of the four states that are authorized because of tradition and history to go early. They are small and we will be more meaningful if we are close to the front and at FULL STRENGTH.

If we break the rules again (this will be two in a row) we will alienate the remainder of the country. We have to demonstrate and prove that we can and will play by the rules before we can ask to legally be allowed to go early to help the country get our view (which we think will be a better view) of how the candidates will do with large state which has the many different voter groups that we have.

Republican National Committee Co-Chair & Florida’s National Committeewoman Sharon Day and I will now be embarrassed for our state as we host the convention from the back row and have a hotel 30/40 miles away. It will also be sad that we will not have the guest passes we would normally have, even if the Nominee does give us a few.

I hope that this information is helpful. I wish our leadership had been more open to input and suggestions from the RNC and our representatives.


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