South Carolina Republicans looking to protect the state's first-in-the-South primary asked the national GOP on Thursday to move the 2012 presidential convention from Florida if officials there hold its contest sooner than permitted.
"This is about following the rules," said South Carolina GOP chairwoman Karen Floyd. Her counterpart in Iowa, which traditionally holds the leadoff caucuses, agreed.
Floyd suggested moving the political prize to another state that's fighting unions or that has close U.S. Senate races. She suggested even moving it to a key swing state like North Carolina instead of holding it in Florida, which she said appeared bent on breaking Republican National Committee rules that call for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to hold contests before any other state in 2012.
However, it's unlikely the RNC will heed Floyd's suggestion. RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said Thursday that the convention would stay in Tampa, where convention planning already is well under way.
The issue is especially sensitive in South Carolina, where officials brag that no GOP nominee has been minted without first winning the state's primary.
Florida and other states that want a bigger say in choosing the nominee and break the rules by jumping ahead in line can face penalties, including losing delegates to the convention.
Some states, including Georgia, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland and California, have or are working to move contest dates back to no earlier than March 6.
Florida's top House Republican also wasn't moved by Floyd's call. The state's GOP-dominated Legislature hasn't budged on a state law that sets the state's primary for Jan. 31, 2012, and top lawmakers have said they won't move the primary unless the state is bumped up to fifth in line.
"I look forward to meeting Chairman Floyd and (Iowa GOP) Chairman (Matt) Strawn in Tampa next summer," House Speaker Dean Cannon said.
During 2008's intense campaign, states scrambled to hold their primaries as soon as possible to have a say in the nomination process. That touched off threats to strip states of delegates and other penalties. Leaders in both parties agreed to require later contests in delegate-rich states. Strawn said Floyd was right to call for the convention to be moved.
"If Florida refuses to move its primary date into compliance with RNC rules, that consequence should be the re-opening of the process to select the site of the 2012 RNC Convention," Strawn said.
In June, the RNC chose Tampa as the convention site over Phoenix and Salt Lake City.
Associated Press Writer Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.