Florida Moves Primary

The state republican delegation could lose half its voting power at the GOP National Convention in our own backyard in Tampa, but in the end given Florida's electoral clout that penalty for going early may not come to pass.

Mark your calendar. The last Tuesday in January could be a turning point in the campaign for the GOP nomination.

Florida's set to go fifth on the primary calendar, the first big state to weigh in.

The winner could build enough momentum to roll to victory on Super Tuesday, like John McCain did four years ago.

"I think it's important for Florida to be prominent in this primary process," said Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-House Majority Leader.

But the early date violates both republican and democratic party rules, and Florida delegates could be deprived of their power to help determine the nominees at the party conventions.

Democratic state Representative Cynthia Stafford was one of two no votes on jumping the calendar.

"I don't want to see voices in Florida diminished and see us penalized because we didn't adhere to the process," she said.

Florida democrats plan to hold Obama reelection caucuses in May to avoid the penalties, but republicans don't appear to think the national party will follow through in penalizing them.

Former Governor Bob Martinez points to 2008, when Florida went early and didn't have any real issues at the convention.

"There's been precedent, particularly if the nomination's sewn up and we're really talking about having a great convention and not argue about delegate seating. So I think that's a likelihood, in my view."

One committee member wanted an earlier primary date, January 3. But even the republican members weren't feeling that bold, and the motion was easily defeated.

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