Florida Primary Fight: Parties vs. Political Reality
Despite clear and longstanding rules by both major parties requiring that all other states wait until after Iowa and New Hampshire hold their contests, Florida is bucking the trend and the major candidates are defying their parties and campaigning in that critical swing state.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune‘s Jeramy Wallace reports that the Democratic Party edict forbidding candidates from campaigning in the Sunshine State is simply being ignored.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are scheduled in Miami this weekend. Then, Clinton has five events in Florida next Monday. Obama’s campaign has fundraising stops scheduled for Tampa and St. Petersburg later this month.
Backers for the top candidates said Tuesday the pledge was so loosely worded, it leaves open plenty of opportunities to appear in Florida. They also believe the fight between state and national Democrats over the primary date will be settled before the vote.
The bottom line: Florida is just too important to write off, pledge or not, political experts say. “They can’t ignore a state like Florida,” said Darryl Paulson, a University of South Florida political science professor.
Florida leaders aren’t budging, either. S.V. Date and George Bennett for the Palm Beach Post:
Despite Democratic presidential candidates pledging to stay away from Florida and his own Republican Party threatening sanctions of its own, Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday he had no intention of pushing back the state’s Jan. 29 presidential primary. “I think moving up our primary is exactly the right thing to do,” he said, adding that he would not support a call by some Democrats to use an upcoming special session to push the primary back to Feb. 5 or later. “Which I guess means it doesn’t have a chance.”
Crist, though, repeated his contention that the number of delegates Florida will have or not have is “not relevant” to the discussion because the nomination likely will be decided months earlier. “I think what the national parties do in Washington is not that relevant to what happens in Florida. I think that a statewide vote for the next leader of the free world on the Democratic or Republican side is a significant event,” he said.
Crist said that in the end, the need to maintain momentum heading into the Feb. 5 mega-state primary means candidates will work hard to win Florida, even if fewer or no delegates are at stake. “It’s interesting. This thing seems to be nuanced a little bit, in that candidates say they’re not going to come here, but yet I’m reading that they are going to come here,” Crist said. “We’ll have to get the truth factor somehow.”
And there’s this little wrinkle:
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer argued Tuesday that the state GOP isn’t violating RNC rules. Greer restated his vow to fight any penalty all the way to the floor of the 2008 convention. Although the results of Florida’s Jan. 29 primary will determine how Florida delegates are allocated, Greer maintains that the state GOP isn’t violating national party rules because the delegates themselves won’t be chosen until after Feb. 5.
“Is it a technicality? Yes. Is it factually correct? It is,” Greer said of his argument.
That’s transparently silly, of course, but then so is giving Iowa and New Hampshire such a prominent role in the nominating process. It might, however, give the parties a way to walk away from enforcing their rules while saving some face.
As Bill Jempty asks, “What serious Democrat or Republican hopeful wants to antagonize Florida voters or contributors? None, if they want to be elected President in November 2008.” The same goes for the two parties.
While I think the states that are violating rules they previously agreed to are wrong, their actions are understandable. Crist is likely right that there really is no penalty in losing delegates, since Florida could well be reduced to an afterthought if it holds its primary later.
Ultimately, some form of national primary will flow from this, perhaps as early as the 2012 cycle. States are simply no longer willing to cede the spotlight to Iowa and New Hampshire and even a rotational schedule would routinely disadvantage important states. Holding all the primaries on a single day, with either instant run-off voting or a subsequent run-off, would end this nonsense.