Florida Republican Committeman says early primary vote is embarrasing and bad for Florida

Whatever the blowback will eventually be, one prominent Florida Republican official, Polk County National Committeeman Paul Senft, thinks it stinks.

In a letter originally printed this morning on the website of the conservative leaning Florida Political Press, and other sites, Senft blasted the decision to move the date up, and the thinking behind it:

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.

(Actually, it's questionable whether any delegation will be stuck in a hotel 40 miles away, though it is remotely possible. The Chair of the RNC Host Committee Ken Jones, has told CL that all of the hotels booked for the convention are either in Hillsborough or Pinellas County).

Obviously, many Republicans in Florida disagree with Senft. One is Justin Sayfie, best known as the host of the aggregating political blog the Sayfie Review, who tells the Hill that stripping the state of half of their delegates "would be a seen as a “slap in the face to the Republican leadership in the state of Florida.”

“They can choose to do so and it’s their right to do that, but it could have negative electoral consequences for our candidates because of Florida’s must-win status in the presidential election,” he said.

Tentatively, this is how the calendar is looking for the GOP contests next year:

Iowa caucuses first or second week of January
New Hampshire primary a few days after Iowa
Nevada caucuses a week after New Hampshire
South Carolina primary shortly after Nevada’s contest
Florida primary Jan. 31
Colorado, Minnesota, Maine Feb. 7 (non-binding preference polls, no delegate penalties)
Missouri Feb. 7 (tentative)
Arizona and Michigan Feb. 28
Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia (Super Tuesday) March 6

One would think one of these years the leaders of both political parties would try to change the system, but they don't, and chaos has ensued the last couple of political cycles, because of the absurd focus on Iowa and New Hampshire being the first states out of the gate to vote for president.

Years ago Florida Senator Bill Nelson had a pretty good idea, which was to regionalize the primaries into the North, South, East and West every four years, allowing one section of the country to play the lead role into the selection of the president. But it went nowhere in Congress.

Republican National Commiteeman Paul Senft
  • Republican National Commiteeman Paul Senft

As everybody who regularly reads this space knows, four years ago the Florida Legislature said essentially the "hell with the rules," and opted to move their presidential primary up to the end of January, even though they were threatened with sanctioned by both political parties, with the threat of losing half or all of their delegates to the national convention if they jumped the starting gun.

The Legislature did so anyway, and it worked out pretty well for the GOP, not so great for Democrats - especially Hillary Clinton and her supporters, as the DNC stripped all of the delegates she won in that January primary, wounding her chances of catching up to Barack Obama (she won the popular vote in Florida by a 50-33 percent margin, even though it did not count).

But for the GOP, it worked out great. They only were stripped of half of their delegates, and the January 29 primary was relevant, as John McCain beat out Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, and effectively captured the nomination that night.

So perhaps that's why House Speaker Dean Cannon, Governor Rick Scott, and other prominent Republicans don't appear to give a rat's patootie about a negative fallout by doing the same thing again, which is what party leaders indicated on Wednesday is exactly what they intend to to this Friday.

Perhaps it makes sense, though there is no doubt a whiff of arrogance, that because the state will be hosting the Republican National Convention next year here in the Sunshine State, the party will fail to stick to their tough talk when it comes to punishing the state party.

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