TAMPA -- A new rule that would penalize states that move up their primaries before contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada isn't going to get much pushback from Florida officials at this year's Republican National Convention.
"I can't think of a less productive use of our time in Tampa then to engage in petty infighting about party rules that have absolutely no relevance to what is at stake this November," said House Speaker Dean Cannon, an Orlando delegate. "Those who would rather debate 2016 convention protocol instead of working to elect Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would be better off serving in their local rotary club instead of the RNC. What is at stake is the future of our country, not hotels assignments and guest passes. If we have another four years under the failed leadership of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, floor seating at the 2016 convention will be the least of our worries."
Florida got penalized this year for moving its primary to Jan. 30, ahead of South Carolina and Nevada. As punishment, national party leaders reduced the number of Floirda delegates who will attend the RNC from 99 to 50 and revoked 160 guest passes (which are lucrative fundraising tools). Under the new rule, passed Wednesday, Florida and other states that jump ahead would see their delegates reduced even further, to a minimum of nine.
The rule wouldn't go into effect until 2016, which was too far off to worry about at a convention where unity was a greater concern, said Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry.
"Obviously, our focus now is to make sure that Mitt Romney wins in November," Curry said. "I still believe that Florida should be an early state. How do we get there is another question."
Curry and other state officials made no objections when the rule was approved by the Republican National Committee on Thursday. But he said that didn't mean Florida Republicans weren't going to oppose it. The new rule must be approved again Friday by the Republican National Convention rules committee. Peter Feaman, a Florida delegate who sits on that committee, said he might oppose the rule at that meeting. But whether he will or not has yet to be decided, Feaman and Curry said.
Modern conventions aren't brokered, anymore, Curry said. So that means delegates don't matter like they once did, where they could be swapped on the floor for whichever candidate built momentum for the nomination at the actual convention. Still, sending delegates matters in the sense that they are a nice tribute to party loyalists who work hard and it's a chance to get everyone together to rally around a cause, Curry said.
If the rule doesn't get changed to the liking of Florida Republicans on Friday, Curry said he won't oppose it on the floor of the convention next week when all of the GOP's delegates must approve it.
"This goes back to being unified behind Romney and Ryan, period," Curry said. "I wouldn't pop a surprise on the convention floor. It's not my style."
Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer