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      SC GOP moves up presidential primary, retains first in the South voting

      Connelly announcing SC primary date Monday. / Adam Pinsker

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- South Carolina Republican officials revealed their choice for the 2012 presidential primary date Monday.

      Party chairman Chad Connelly announced the Palmetto State will keep the first in the South voting honors by holding its primary January 21.

      That date comes 10 days before the January 31 primary Florida settled on late last week. Supporters say this creates a buffer between the excitement of the Sunshine State's primary and puts a focus back on South Carolina's choice.

      Holding an early primary maximizes time with the candidates in the state.

      "Anybody who wants this prize of being president has to come to South Carolina and has to do well," Connelly stated.

      On Friday, Connelly scolded the Sunshine State's move that shook-up the 2012 GOP primary schedule and tried to overshadow South Carolina's first in the South voting event.

      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.

      Again Monday, Connelly took the chance to criticize the Florida GOP.

      "Last Friday, a nine person committee brought chaos to the 2012 calendar. Today, South Carolina is making things right."

      More GOP Primary News... Florida GOP sets early primary date, SC weighing options SC GOP condemns Florida Republicans for seeking earlier primary New rules aim to extend GOP primary

      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. Early voting breaks national party rules preserving a typical primary calendar, taking away half of the state's nominating delegates as punishment.

      Connelly said that's a risk the party is willing to take. Party leaders won't know the final punishment until the August 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.

      "I will convince the RNC to institute stricter penalties for states who ignore primary rules," Connelly said during the announcement Monday at the party headquarters in Columbia.

      Connelly said South Carolina is proud to continue its 30-year-history of holding early voting for presidential candidates. He also announced the state will host the first in the South debate on FOX News.

      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.