After the usual jockeying for position, it looks like the Republican Presidential primary calendar is finally starting to take shape in ways that require still-undeclared candidates to get in or miss the train.
Last Friday, in an attempt to be the first large population state with a primary, Florida broke the Republican Party’s primary rules by moving up its primary date to January 31. This power play by Florida is expected to cause the four traditionally early states — Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — to all move their primary dates even earlier to maintain their early-state influence.
Already South Carolina is the first of the four early states to respond to Florida’s date change. To keep its status as the “first in the South” primary, the South Carolina Republican party has decided to move its primary date to January 21st. Under national party rules, that move could potentially cost South Carolina half its delegates at the Republican convention, but that is a risk the state party appears willing to take to keep its early position.
Both Iowa and New Hampshire have spent years jealously guarding their status as the first caucus and first primary in the country, so there is no doubt both states will respond to South Carolina’s recent move by selecting dates before January 21st. Both states will likely choose dates in the beginning of January, unless, of course, some other state tries to jump ahead of the pack, causing all of the states to move to even earlier dates.
The most important political implication to this moving up of the primary calendar is that it gives undeclared potential Republican candidates very little time to establish a campaign before the voting starts. With the first contest likely now just three months away, potential candidates like Chris Christie or Sarah Palin are going to need to decide extremely soon if they are running.