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Daniel Ruth

Make way for Florida, small fry

There is an understandable reason why Florida Republicans are quite correct in insisting the state hold its 2012 presidential primary early in the election cycle, much to the pouting, whiny consternation of Iowa and South Carolina.

Florida is simply more important to the presidential nomination process than two states populated by Mr. Green Jeans and Foghorn Leghorn.

This may offend Iowa and South Carolina. But really now, who cares?

So while various party fussbudgets in Iowa and South Carolina stomp their feet and hold their breath and ask for their mommies merely because they might lose what precious little influence they have in picking the GOP nominee, Florida Republicans have essentially extended the international hand gesture signifying "have a nice day."

At the moment, Florida is scheduled to hold its presidential primary on Jan. 31. But the state's Republican establishment is flexible, open-minded and ever willing to compromise. Perhaps Feb. 1 might work out. Snicker, snicker, wink-wink, nod, nod.

Finagling with the primary calendar has infuriated Republican hotsy-tots, especially in Iowa and South Carolina, because they know their early spots on the schedule are the only way they can get anyone to come to their states in the first place. Really now, Iowa? In the dead of winter? South Carolina? This is a place with some of the more onerous liquor laws this side of Saudi Arabia.

Florida Republicans have been accused by their party brethren of engaging in arrogance, political backstabbing and a flagrant, out-and-out flouting of the rules governing the holding of primary elections. Yeah? So?

This is a political endeavor, after all. Shouldn't it by definition be rife with arrogance, duplicity and some good old-fashioned rule flouting?

The reality of stump life is that a presidential candidate can win the nomination and indeed the election without getting anywhere near an Iowa mukluk or South Carolina dueling banjo. But Florida's delegates are a critical component in presidential politics.

Oh, the unfairness of it all! Poor Iowa with its cook-the-books white bread caucus system, where anyone with a pulse (and there's even some doubt about that) can come into the state and participate in a sort of potluck dinner game of musical chairs to select the next leader of the Free World. An Afghani tribal loya jirga is more inclusive.

Meanwhile, South Carolina has a reputation for staging some of the nation's dirtiest, sleaziest, race-baiting elections that prey on the fears of voters who aren't exactly pillars of thoughtful discernment. And the Republicans want to protect this paragon of democracy?

Although it makes absolutely no sense, according to RNC rules Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, which possess the collective political clout of the Isle of Roatan, are the only states permitted to hold their primaries in February. It's a waste of time and money for the candidates and only forces the public to endure endless newscasts featuring horrible accents as legions of reporters interview the same three flinty customers in a Manchester diner.

There are threats to deny candidates delegates if Florida moves up its primary, which is what happened in 2008 and hardly caused much of a ripple because Florida is still Florida.

And if Republicans controlling the Legislature are unfazed by legalizing bribery, treating teachers as if they were panhandlers, paving over wetlands and practically transforming union membership into a felony, does anyone believe House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos are going to lose much sleep if they happen to annoy Johnny Appleseed and Lil' Abner?

Cannon and Haridopolos enjoy the additional benefit of not only shooting the moon at Iowa and South Carolina but at Florida's gelded Democrats, who are powerless to prevent the same sanctions in terms of loss of convention delegates. There's not much use in having political clout if you can't abuse it now and then.

If you're a romantic traditionalist, you could make a case for New Hampshire to continue to hold the nation's first primary. But Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada hold no particularly unique historic claim to warrant their exclusive position on the election calendar. This is the political equivalent of simply holding a door open for the small children.

At least the mewing GOP infighting has not been without its entertainment value. A few days ago, the Nevada Republican Party described the Cannon-Haridopolos Axis of Hair Gel as a couple of "outlaws" — this from a place where the official state symbol is the pinkie ring.

Perhaps the speaker and the Senate president might want to think about moving the primary up to this July. What fun.

Make way for Florida, small fry 04/04/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 4, 2011 7:33pm]
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