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      Florida GOP sets early primary date, SC weighing options

      SC GOP press conference / Thursday

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- The Florida Republican Party made a move Friday that is shaking up GOP 2012 presidential primary schedule.

      In a 7-2 vote, Florida moved to set its primary voting date for January 31. The early voting announcement breaks national party rules preserving a typical primary calendar, taking away half of the state's nominating delegates as punishment.

      On Friday, Governor Nikki Haley vowed that South Carolina will not be leapfrogged.

      "No matter what date they move to, we're going to push ours in front," said Gov. Haley. "We've always had a strong primary and have always named who the Republican nominee is going to be for the country. It's not going to be any different this year."

      The South Carolina Republican Party, traditionally holding the 'first in the South" primary in February, must now decide if it wants to break the same rules, risking punishment, to keep the early voting honors.

      According to Republican National Committee rules, no state other than the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can hold primaries or caucuses before March 6.

      SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly scolds the Sunshine State for bumping up their date.

      Today TMs decision by Florida is hugely disappointing and could have been avoided. Rogue states have once again dictated the Presidential nominating calendar. I call on my fellow RNC members and all Republicans to strongly condemn Florida TMs decision to hold their primary on January 31," Connelly said Friday.

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      States who have worked so hard to maintain the nominating calendar should not be penalized and the offenders, including Florida, should lose their entire allocations of delegates at the National Convention. Rules matter and the four traditional early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) did everything they could to avoid this unfortunate situation."

      Connelly added South Carolina would not announce its primary date Friday. Republican National Committee rules dictate that all states must submit primary and caucus dates by Saturday.

      To maintian their status, the traditional early voting states will likely have to establish their primary dates in mid or early January, far earlier than leaders hoped. Critics say Florida's move will condense the calendar so much that campaigning will be wedged into the busy holiday season, not giving voters adequate time to properly review and vet the candidates.

      The South Carolina GOP chairman said Thursday that he and his counterparts in the other traditional early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada will not allow what he called "rogue states" to dictate the calendar.

      Do you think the importance of a first in the South primary is worth breaking the party rules? Vote in our poll and leave a comment below to weigh in.