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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla GOPers: Hotel, shmotel. We'd snub the RNC again



News Service of Florida:

After a week of hour-long trips to theTampa Bay Times Forum, lost buses and the equivalent of exile fordelegates, state officials at the Republican National Convention havemade up their minds.

They would do it all over again. And next time, they just might.

As punishment for moving the state's presidential primary outside of theGOP's official window -- and helping to set off a calendar scramble thatcascaded across the country -- Florida Republicans were banished to theInnisbrook resort. The Innisbrook accommodations are nice -- but theyalso happen to be in Palm Harbor, far away from downtown Tampa, wheremost of the convention-related action took place this week.

The location of the resort, shared with South Carolina after that statealso changed its date to preserve its annual first-in-the-South status,was the butt of jokes all week long.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam quipped at a joint breakfastthat the two states were "partners in primary purgatory." U.S. Sen. MarcoRubio had one of the lines of the week when a heckler interrupted hisspeech to the Florida delegation breakfast: "Well, I guess he's not happywith the hotel assignment."

But if the national GOP's objective was to make the state party's leadersrethink their attempt to horn in on the early part of the primarycalendar, the mission was not accomplished.

"I have no regrets whatsoever, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat," saidoutgoing House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican who was oneof the leaders in pushing for an early primary.

Republicans echo the arguments made when they pushed for an earlierprimary at the beginning of the year: That by going Jan. 31, the state'sGOP voters won more than delegates lost and a lengthy bus ride to theconventional hall.

There's little question that Florida helped provide former MassachusettsGov. Mitt Romney with a shot of momentum after he split the threeearliest prizes of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina with his chiefrivals. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania won the HawkeyeState, while former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich carried SouthCarolina.

An easy victory in Florida followed by another win in Nevada -- which wasoriginally supposed to vote before Florida -- gave Romney the boost heneeded to ride out the rest of the primary season.

"We nominated the person that can beat Barack Obama," said RepublicanParty of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry. "I’d sleep in a sleeping bag hereif I had to."

Sen. John Thrasher, who was one of Romney's first supporters and servedon the committee who set the primary date, said it isn't Florida thatshould be rethinking things.

"I still think Florida is such a diverse state, Florida is such animportant state, that, frankly, I would hope that the national Republicanparty would take another look at their rules and allow some states likeFlorida to go early," he said.

(Then again, Thrasher was not an official Florida delegate and didn'tstay at Innisbrook. "Where's that?" he asked reporters who asked himabout the resort where the delegation was exiled.)

And some delegates, at least, think it's time for the state to undertakesome retribution of its own.

"After these penalties," tweeted Christian Camara, a lobbyist anddelegate, "Fla should payback RNC by moving up its 2016 presidentialprimary to the day after Christmas 2015."

[Last modified: Thursday, August 30, 2012 5:02pm]


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