Florida broke the presidential primary rules
– again – but officials figure it’s worth a penalty for their state to
maintain a relevant voice in nominating candidates for the White House.
When Florida voters
choose their candidate for the Republican presidential nomination on
Tuesday, they’ll do so as the fourth state in the process. The cost:
half their delegates to the GOP convention.
much rather have a say in the nomination process as opposed to the
coronation process,” Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos said.
it did in 2008, Florida went against the national parties this year and
set the last Tuesday in January as its primary date. In response,
officials in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina moved up their dates
The strategy paid off for Florida four
years ago. Sen. John McCain carried the state and used the momentum from
that victory to win the Republican nomination.
could again play a pivotal role. With Rick Santorum barely winning the
Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney carrying New Hampshire and Newt Gingrich
taking South Carolina, a victory in the winner-take-all contest for
Florida’s 50 delegates could change the course of the campaign.
Seeking more influence isn’t anything new for Florida.
to share New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary date, the state
set its 1972 primary for the second Tuesday in March. New Hampshire
responded by moving up its election, but Florida’s date remained in law
At first, that still left Florida
early in the nominating process. While several states held caucuses
before the 1976 vote, Florida was the third state to choose delegates
through a primary, following New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Florida
chose the eventual nominees: Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican Gerald
Then other states began moving up their
primaries. Florida soon found itself irrelevant, holding its contest
after the nominees essentially had been decided.
legislative leaders and then-Gov. Charlie Crist decided to change that
for the 2008 primaries, arguing that Florida is more diverse in
population than other early voting states. It has large populations of
Hispanic and black voters, a mix of Southerners and Northern transplants
and large rural areas and major cities.
national parties weren’t happy. The Democratic National Committee
stripped Florida of all its delegates. After initially making frequent
stops in Florida, the Democratic candidates agreed to boycott the state.
Republican National Committee stripped Florida of half its delegates,
which, given its size, still made it an important state to win. GOP
candidates spent a lot of time talking about issues important to the
state, including the restoration of the Everglades, Cuba policy,
offshore drilling and property insurance issues.
McCain was able to use Florida to build momentum, the same wasn’t true
for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her overwhelming victory over
Barack Obama had an asterisk next to it – there were no delegates at
stake and none of the candidates had campaigned here for months before
the election. She unsuccessfully argued to have the delegates fully
restored before finally conceding the race. Once it was clear Obama
would be the nominee, the delegates were restored at his request.
For all the complaining about Florida moving its presidential primary, the state was the first to hold a primary. Ever.
1904, Florida elected delegates to a national party’s nominating
convention. And while they weren’t bound to follow the results of the
presidential preference primary, other states began taking up the idea.