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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that politicians like Hillary and Obama would say (and sign) one thing to get votes in one state and then do the opposite to get votes in another state. Why it’s almost like you can’t trust them to keep their promises.

  2. Tlaloc says:

    Why has florida turned into such a bunch of wankers? Seriously, ever since the 2000 election they seem determined not to relinquish the “retard clown state” sash back to Texas.

  3. Michael says:

    When Florida held it’s presidential primary in 2004, the only Democratic candidates who hadn’t dropped out of the race already were Kerry and Edwards. Why bother choosing delegates when the person they will be voting for has already been determined by people outside the state? At least next year we will have our choice of candidates to vote for.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    When Florida held it’s presidential primary in 2004, the only Democratic candidates who hadn’t dropped out of the race already were Kerry and Edwards. Why bother choosing delegates when the person they will be voting for has already been determined by people outside the state? At least next year we will have our choice of candidates to vote for.

    The problem is EVERY state except Idaho and NH can make this same argument and can use it to justify leapfrogging your position. I live in Oregon, it’s not like out primaries do much of anything.

    We should have a national primary. Barring that we should set up some system of rotating which state goes when. This idiotic dash to be first has to stop.

  5. Edna says:

    Quoting the article here: “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.” WHAT? Crist totally misses the point! While it is true that the nominations of both parties will most likely be decided before the conventions, it is nonetheless POSSIBLE that it could come down to the convention. In which case, having delegates represent the will of the voters in Florida would be crucial! And in any event, the principle of the thing is, there are over four million innocent, long-suffering registered Democrats in the state of Florida who had nothing to do with the fact that the Republican-controlled legislature moved the primary date up. Why should we be punished by the Draconian move of the DNC disenfranchising us from the democratic process by making our votes not count?! Been there, done that in 2000. Only at least then, it was Katherine Harris and other FOB’s (friends of Bush) doing it to us. This time it is our own party. I, for one, am in a state of shock and awe. And then for Crist to merrily chime in that delegates being taken away is “irrelevant”…am I in a dream? Is this real? I feel like I’m in the opening dream sequence of Fahrenheit 9.11 all over again. HELP! Scotty, beam me up! There is no intelligent life down here! …Meanwhile, to my fellow Democrats: don’t let any of this asaninity discourage you from going to the primary on 1/29/07 and VOTING! Your vote will count to defeat the Republican property tax amendment, for one thing. But for another thing: let’s send a message to the DNC and the world: we WILL make our voices heard and we will NOT allow anyone–even and especially our own party–to disenfranchise us from having our votes count ever again!