South Carolina Sets Jan. 21 Primary, Striking Back at Florida

Days after Florida moved its primary date to Jan. 31, 2012, in clear violation of rules established by the Republican National Committee, South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly announced on Monday that the Palmetto State will hold its “first-in-the-South” primary on Jan. 21, 2012.

Connelly said that after Florida created chaos, South Carolina was restoring order to the process, but the nominating calendar is now far from orderly.

He also said that South Carolina may also lose half of its delegates, and said that “it is just not right” for his state to potentially be penalized in that manner. 

Connelly expressed his belief that Florida should be penalized for being a rogue state.

“I really think states that violate the calendar should lose all their delegates,” Connolly said.  “Forty-nine out of the 50 states played pretty in the sandbox.”

Connelly stressed that South Carolina, which has accurately voted for every Republican presidential nominee since 1980, would not lose its importance despite the belief among some that Florida’s primary would not make South Carolina as important as it has been in previous cycles.

“Any candidate who ignores our state does so at great peril,” Connolly said.  “They are not going to skip South Carolina.”

He said that Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina are where they are due to their inexpensive media markets.

He added that because the calendar is so compressed, underfunded candidates who may do well in the early states “don’t have time to reload” to play in the bigger markets.

Connolly said that a candidate could compete in a state like South Carolina with a $2 million war chest, but that would not register in a huge and expensive state like Florida.

Connolly said a Florida house member told him that the state’s “11 million voters deserve to be relevant,” but added that he told the Florida state representative that Florida was already more than relevant because it had two debates and the Republican convention.

With two of the five puzzle pieces in place in the nominating calendar, it is next up to Iowa to determine its caucus date.  But before it can do that, all eyes will be on New Hampshire.  Whatever date New Hampshire settles on will determine how early
 Iowa goes, and where Nevada falls on the calendar.

In the end, the compressed calendar may help candidates with the resources to move forward while making it unlikely for lesser-known candidates to have an impact.

In an interview on Fox News’ “On the Record” last Friday, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has been gaining momentum, said that if a month is shaved off of the election season, “you are advantaging the candidates who are at the top of the polls by having the election sooner rather than later.”

Santorum said that if the larger states went up to the front of the line, “whoever raises the most money wins,” and that smaller states are needed at the beginning of the process to properly vet the candidates and “kick the tires.”