RNC chairman Reince Priebus to Florida GOP: There's room at Tampa Bay Times Forum

Florida Republicans better not count on a lenient national GOP to give them prime floor seats to the Republican National Convention in Tampa after they broke the party's primary schedule rules. But RNC chairman Reince Priebus said Thursday that they don't have to worry about access to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in August.

"The rules committee made a decision that Florida's going to lose half of its delegates," Priebus told the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9, in taping a Political Connections interview to air Sunday. "I have not heard a single person on the rules committee make any movement or request for anyone from any part of this operation to change that."

Still, Priebus left the door wide open to allowing more state party activists into the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the Aug. 27-30 event, even if they aren't seated on the floor with the 50 voting delegates.

"We're talking about 50 seats on the floor. Believe me, we're going to need a lot of people here in Florida filling that arena. It's really not something that I think people here in Florida should be obsessing over," Priebus said.

"We're going to have a great convention, Florida GOP is going to have a great time. We're going to win Florida, and we're going to do it together as a team and a family here in Florida. This is one little thing that we've had to deal with as the RNC, but it's not going to detract from the good time of every single person in Florida that would like to be a part of the convention."

The Florida GOP violated the national party's sanctioned primary schedule four years ago as well, and the RNC cut the state's delegation in half to 55. In the end, all 110 delegates were seated on the floor in St. Paul, Minn., though half were deemed non-voting "honored guests" and their names were excluded from the convention's official registry.

The Tampa Bay Times Forum should have about 19,000 seats available for conventioneers, including 2,286 delegates and 2,125 alternate delegates. It's not yet clear if all of those delegates will wind up on the floor or if some alternates are put close to the floor.

"I am working hard behind the scenes to make sure we have a full slate of Floridians in the arena, and participating in the events,'' said Florida Republican Party chairman Lenny Curry. "They fully recognize the importance of Florida and that it's important that Republicans in Florida have a good experience."

Priebus was in Tampa this week raising money and meeting with convention officials. In his Political Connections interview, he made it clear he did not relish the prospect of spending the next few months talking about penalties for the delegation hosting the convention.

"I'm kind of done talking about penalties and things of the past. Right now we're moving on to have a great convention here in Tampa," he said. "The Florida GOP is going to be very happy. The entire party is going to be treated to a great week here. But most importantly, the purpose of all this is to give Mitt Romney the bump that he needs out of Tampa in order to defeat what I consider to be a European nightmare in the White House."

Priebus also dismissed President Barack Obama's support for same-sex marriage as evidence of letting politics dictate his decisions.

"The president puts his finger up in the air and decides where the winds are blowing. … But at the end of the day it takes away from what the real issues are in this country, which is too many people not working, too many people not making what they should make, and at the end of the day a president who has made a lot of promises but hasn't fulfilled any of them."

The full interview can be seen on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus to Florida GOP: There's room at Tampa Bay Times Forum 05/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 12:39am]

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