RNC strips VIP passes from Fla GOP delegation, but lets all delegates on floor
Florida's delegates to the Republican National Convention already knew they were being housed about as far away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum as possible, at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, as punishment for scheduling an early presidential primary in violation of national party rules.
Now there's additional good news and bad news for the Florida GOP.
The bad: The Republican National Committee won't back off cutting Florida's voting delegates from 99 to 50, and it will strip Florida of more than 160 guest passes. Nor will the Florida delegation have prime front row seats at the Tampa Bay Times forum, as they often have at prior conventions.
The good: Even though Florida will only have 50 voting delegates on the floor, the RNC will allow another 49 to join the delegation on the floor as "honored guests."
"Florida's delegate status is not going to be reinstated, they're going to lose an incredible amount of guest passes, their hotel is not going to be improved," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told Buzz today. "But we will allow their non-voting members of their delegation floor access"
Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry, who has yet to release the names of Florida delegates because of uncertainty over their status, called it a big victory.
"I am pleased beyond belief. This is a win for the Florida delegation," Curry said. "We've said all along that we wanted everyone to be seated on the floor. I'm grinning ear to ear."
Priebus, though, insisted Florida received no leniency because of its political importance. He had looked at seating the non-voting members off the floor, in an area called "the lower bowl" but concluded he did not want to give up those seats which tend to go to top donors.
"At the end of the day I'm not willing to give up prime seating for our donors in the lower bowl so it was easier just to allow these (Florida) guests floor access," Priebus said.
This year was the second time Florida Florida snubbed the national party by scheduling an earlier-than-allowed primary to ensure Florida has significant influence on picking the nominee. Republican National Committee members from other states that abided by the official calendar were livid about Florida's actions and determined the Florida not escape punishment.
Losing guest passes to the Tampa Bay Times is more painful than it may sound. Those passes can be used to raise significant money or to reward top donors and activists.
"The Republican Party of Florida is going to make sure all Republicans have a great experience," Curry said. "I understand the RNC and the other states were upset about us moving the primary early, so I'm not gloating or him and i understand that the other states were upset, so this isn't gloating or jumping up and down, but this is a win for us and positive for Mitt Romney. And I appreciate Chairman Priebus."
It's an open question whether the penalties are enough to make Florida's elected officials - or those in other states - to think twice before bucking the rules again and blowing up future primary calendars.
"I think so for sure,'' Priebus said."They received 90 percent of every penalty available to us."