SC in race to host first presidential primary

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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On Thursday morning, Republicans in South Carolina are expected to announce a major change in the date when state residents could be voting in the state's primary

Republicans across the state bristled Wednesday when the state of Florida announced its intention to leapfrog South Carolina and hold its own primary in January instead of in March.

That's a violation of party rules which only allow four so-called “carve out" states to hold elections before March 6.

Those four states are Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

"We’re going to be first," said York County GOP chairman Glenn McCall.   McCall said he's very disappointed in what Florida is doing, for several reasons.

"First because we're already having the national convention in Florida, and second because I think we need to live by the rules," McCall said.

The Florida delegation itself approved the rules that keep the primary days where they are, yet now the state seeks to steal the spotlight and political thunder from South Carolina.

There is a lot more at stake than state pride and prestige.  The primaries dump tens of millions of dollars into state businesses.

"Ad buys on radio. Television and print, as well as filling up hotel rooms with campaigns, staffers, supporters, media and others," said Winthrop University political scientist Karen Kedrowski.

Since the 1980s when South Carolina moved its primary into the first position in the south, the state has been a key decider in choosing the future nominee.

In fact, the winner of South Carolina’s primary has always gone on to win the nomination.  That's a distinction the state doesn't want to lose.

Kedrowski said state GOP leaders will out maneuver Florida to remain first.

"South Carolina will wait until the 11th hour if it has to, to leapfrog ahead of Florida," she said.

Breaking party rules does have consequences.  In 2008, Florida and Michigan Democrats decided to move up their primaries and each state lost half their delegates at the convention.  That means those two states had less of a role in choosing the party's nominee.

It's expected that the Republican National Committee will take similar action against Florida if the state violates party rules.

The battle to be first will be short-lived, however. On Saturday, the national Republican Party locks in the dates for all the state primaries.

It's not clear yet who will end up first.