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Florida defends, Nevada condemns primary shuffle

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry is defending his state’s primary selection process, which has resulted in a Jan. 31, 2012 date that has thwarted the will of the national political parties.

“[U]nder the authority provided them by Florida statute and their selection by Governor Scott, Speaker Cannon and Senate President Haridopolos, the nine members of the Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee chose January 31st as our state’s date. As I have said before, the Republican Party of Florida was always prepared to work with the date selected by those with the legal authority to do so,” Curry said.

Curry hinted that the outcome could have been much worse, noting that the state committee considered dates ranging from Jan. 3 to March 6, 2012.

“So, this compromise of January 31st properly reflects the importance Florida will play on the national stage,” he added. “We look forward to having a great primary, and then hosting a world-class convention for our party’s nominee. Florida will be the most important state in our efforts to defeat Barack Obama.”

Nevada GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian — like her counterparts here in Iowa and in South Carolina — holds a much different perspective on the move by Florida.

“Florida’s decision to move its primary is disappointing and, frankly, disrespectful of the other early primary states and the process as a whole,” she said. “Because the state of Nevada’s caucus is, by rule, four days after New Hampshire’s [primary], we will move Nevada’s first-in-the-west caucus if the New Hampshire GOP moves theirs. No matter what, we will not allow this disruption to interfere with our goal of creating a presidential caucus that will be the pride of the western states. This situation gives Nevadans the opportunity to showcase our ability to adapt to establish our state as a major player in national politics.”

Although party rules stipulate that a state in violation of the national nominating calendar can be stripped of delegates to their national convention, such a threat has not slowed down groups hoping to organize around the Jan. 31 Florida date.

The Republican Party of Florida and CNN announced they will host a debate in Jacksonville in the lead-up to the new Florida primary date. In addition, NBC News and several other organizations voiced their intention to hold a debate in Tampa, the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention, on Jan. 30, 2012.

From the NBC News press release:

NBC News, National Journal, The St. Petersburg Times, and the Florida Council of 100 today announced that their Republican presidential primary debate will take place on Monday, January 30, 2012. The event will fall on the eve of the Florida primary, which state officials today declared will be January 31.

The jointly sponsored debate, first announced in April, will be held at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, site of the 2012 Republican National Convention. It is the first time that presidential primary candidates will debate in the arena where one of them will return to accept the nomination.

This historic event will be broadcast in Tampa by WFLA and statewide on other NBC stations as well as air nationally on MSNBC and stream on msnbc.com.

From the Republican Party of Florida press release, which was also circulated on Friday:

Today the Republican Party of Florida and CNN have entered into an agreement to co-host a nationally-televised debate on a date between January 22 and January 31. The move ensures Florida voters, and the nation, will hear directly from the Republican presidential contenders just before Florida’s January 31st primary. The debate will be held in a venue in Jacksonville.

“The Republican Party of Florida is excited to be working with CNN for a debate linked to the state’s primary date,” said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. “The opportunity to host it in my home city, Jacksonville, helps shine the national spotlight on another region of Florida that our eventual nominee must win.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott said of the announcement, “After national debates in Tampa and Orlando, this latest partnership with CNN for a debate in Jacksonville in January demonstrates the crucial role Florida will play, not only in the Republican Presidential Primary, but in the general election next November.”

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