Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn had strong words today for Florida legislators who seem intent on usurping Republican National Committee 2012 calendar dates.
“The contempt that Florida legislators hold not only for the RNC 2012 rules, but also for the RNC members who approved those rules, is astonishing,” Strawn said. “To reward this arrogance with our national convention is a great disservice to the Republican activists, donors and elected officials nationwide who support the RNC.”
Strawn’s statement follows a letter by South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd to RNC committee members that requested the national convention be moved out of Florida if state lawmakers don’t follow calendar rules that require that the state not hold its presidential primary any earlier than March 1, 2012.
National Republicans have already threatened to strip Florida of half of its delegates if the state tries to keep its primary election in January — well before the scheduled February dates set for Iowa and New Hampshire. The rules adopted by the RNC mandate that only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are allowed to hold presidential nomination contests prior to March 1, 2012.
The current Republican National Convention is scheduled to be held in Tampa.
If Florida refuses to come into compliance, Strawn said there should be stiff consequences.
“[T]hat consequence should be the re-opening of the process to select the site of the 2012 RNC Convention,” he said. “I join South Carolina Chairwoman Floyd today in beginning preparations to request that the Committee convene a special task force to select a new site for the 2012 Convention outside the state of Florida.”
The letter sent by Floyd:
Fellow Republican National Committee Members:
Taking back the White House in 2012 must be our top priority as Republicans, and as such it is critical that our presidential nominating process must serve to put forward the candidate best able to accomplish that task.
It was with great foresight that in 2008 the Republican National Committee conceived the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, which subsequently worked for nearly two years to put forward a fair and equitable recommendation with regard to states’ roles in the 2012 nominating process.
That recommendation was adopted last year by our membership – and, not insignificantly, adopted by a two-thirds vote. This system represents a great step forward in bringing some much-needed predictability to the presidential nominating process, and will help us as a Party to avoid a de facto national primary. I believe that a comprehensive, thorough vetting and nomination process is critical to our efforts to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.
Unfortunately, our Party stands on the precipice of our hard work being rendered meaningless, with the very real possibility looming that Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary may be held prior to March 1, in contravention of Party Rules – a move that would precipitate numerous other states similarly violating Party Rules.
As conservatives, we believe in the rule of law, and that rules are made to be followed. To that end, I am sure we all appreciate our state Party counterparts in Florida advocating for the RNC rules being obeyed. But what is disconcerting is the apparent recalcitrance of Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature, which is in effect thumbing its nose at the RNC – and feels emboldened to do so because of the 2012 convention location.
According to CNN, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon recently said that he “is not worried about penalties and cannot envision a circumstance in which the RNC refuses to seat Florida’s delegation, since the GOP convention will be held in Tampa.” Cannon continued, “There is some understandable skepticism about what [the RNC] would do with Florida’s delegates.”
I give Chairman Reince Priebus great credit for having already stated definitively that the penalties for violating rule 15(b) will be enforced on any state that acts outside the RNC primary calendar, including Florida. Chairman Priebus is also on record as stating that the consequences for states could extend beyond the loss of 50 percent of their delegates, to penalties such as loss of guest passes, hotel location, and floor location.
That being said, based upon the totality of the public statements from Florida’s legislative leaders, it is my fear that these sanctions may not be enough to dissuade Florida from the path that they are on. Recently, some legislative leaders in Florida have even floated the idea of a “compromise” by which they would hold their primary in mid-February rather than late-January, an idea that should be unacceptable on its face. One should not get credit for breaking the rules “less” – if Florida holds its contest any time before March, the penalties should still be the same. Similarly, it should not be acceptable for any state to circumvent the process completely via highly publicized non-binding “caucus” events. While we recognize that Florida or any other state doing so would not violate the letter of the RNC Rules, it would certainly violate their spirit.
This brings me to my purpose for writing you all today:
Simply put, if Florida does not respect the process by which our primary calendar was set, the RNC should not be bound to the process by which the convention site was selected.
If Florida refuses to move its primary date into compliance with RNC rules, I am respectfully requesting that the Committee convene a special task force to select a new site for the 2012 Convention outside the state of Florida.
I believe rather than becoming the fodder for strong-arm legislative tactics, the Convention should be viewed and treated as an incredible honor for any state fortunate enough to host it. What’s more, we as a Committee have an opportunity to use the Convention as a show of solidarity with Republicans nationwide who are fighting for conservative change and working to unseat entrenched Democratic interests. To that end, I would also suggest the following alternatives to the Committee, should they become necessary:
Liberal forces across the country have mobilized to push back against the conservative, pro-taxpayer reforms being advanced in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana that are aimed at curtailing union power there. What better way to recognize the courageous efforts of conservatives in those states than by having Republicans descend en masse on a city like Milwaukee or Cincinnati for our Convention? In addition, each of these states are critical swing states for our efforts in 2012, and recent electoral trends would suggest that they will be more “in play” than Florida next year. If Florida continues on this course, I believe the Committee should strongly consider relocating the convention to Wisconsin, Ohio or Indiana.
Similarly, we should look at states where our presence could bolster efforts at winning key Senate seats in 2012. Among others, it is critically important that we retake the seat of retiring Senator Jim Webb in Virginia, and defeat incumbent Democratic senators like Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Debbie Stabenow in Michigan. I would humbly suggest that the Committee look toward those states as potential Convention sites as well.
Finally, with Obama having won the once solidly red state of North Carolina in 2008, we must reassert our presence there. Having our convention there would have the added benefit or countering the considerable energy that the Democratic Party is looking to generate in that state by holding their own convention in Charlotte.
I do not make any of these suggestions lightly, or with the notion that this idea will not be met with considerable resistance. Even if we choose to take this action as a way to sanction Florida, I am fully cognizant that it may not ultimately dissuade them from the path that they appear to be on — but as a Party, we must send a strong message that flouting RNC rules and processes will certainly not be met with a reward so significant as the hosting of our national Convention.
It remains my sincere hope that none of this will be necessary – that Florida will ultimately abide by the rules set forward by our Committee, that we will have an orderly and predictable nominating process, and that we will have a phenomenal convention in Tampa in 2012. If Florida’s legislature makes those things impossible, however, it is important to start the conversation now about the alternatives.
Thank you again for all for your continued leadership of our Party and in all that you do. I look forward to working with each of you as we fight to bring conservative leadership back to this country.
Chairman, South Carolina Republican Party