Despite the fact that no individual has come forward as a 2012 presidential candidate on either side of the aisle, skirmishes related to the nominating calendar are already underway.

Republicans in Florida are considering holding a non-binding straw poll in conjunction with a new event, “Presidency V,” which would include a nationally televised debate. According to Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald, the proposal “enjoyed wide support from Republican Party of Florida leaders at its quarterly meeting last weekend.”

While state officials are marketing the plan as being good for grassroots Republicans as well as potential 2012 candidates, it would also allow delegates to circumvent penalties related to an early 2012 primary set by the Republican-led state legislature.

The Florida primary is currently scheduled to take place on Jan. 31, 2012,  a full week ahead of the nationally indicated start of the 2012 contests. If the current primary goes forward, national leaders could strip the state of half of its elected delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., for violation of calendar rules.

If state lawmakers hold firm on their January election date, the Florida primary would be scheduled ahead of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — states that are nationally slated to lead the 2012 contests beginning in February. Party officials indicated that if the straw poll is held in fall 2011, the primary would be pushed back to April.

The stripping of delegates has long been a stick waved at states who choose to skirt the national calendar, which is set by the national Republican and Democratic party committees. Because the presidential contest in 2008 involved an open seat, seen as competitive for both major parties, both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee were active in negotiations with states during those contests. In 2012, however, with Barack Obama the presumptive Democratic nominee, the contests and the calendar are considered much more in play for Republican candidates.

The Republican National Committee voted in August — and not without contention — that the 2012 presidential calendar would once again begin with the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary and contests in Nevada and South Carolina. Under the RNC calendar, the four early contests will be held in February 2012. States that hold contests in March would be required to divide their delegates based on the support in the primary or caucus. Those holding contests in April would be provided the perceived added advantage of assigning all their delegates to the candidate that achieves top support in the state.

Lynda Waddington reports for The Iowa Independent.

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