Well Florida has done it — and it will explode the whole 2012 election process. Florida’s presidential primary will be held Jan. 31, 2012, more than a month ahead of schedule and well before the March 6 date that Republican rules set as the earliest date for states to hold a primary without losing half of their delegate power at the national GOP convention.
Florida was by no means the first. Both Michigan and Arizona had earlier advanced their dates to Feb. 28. Colorado Republicans moved their nonbinding caucuses even earlier to Feb. 7 and the Missouri primary is aimed for the same day.
Under the rules the process is supposed to have, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina begin in early February, then the states selecting under proportional rules begin March 6, with the normal winner-take-all selection not beginning until one month later.
This jockeying guarantees the whole nomination process will move earlier in a chain reaction that will create enormous chaos. Iowa will presumably move its caucuses to Jan. 6, New Hampshire to Jan. 24 and Nevada and South Carolina to Jan. 28, all potentially losing half of their delegates, too.
Paradoxically, moving the whole presidential nomination process up will actually prolong the selection of a candidate. Choosing so many delegates under proportional rules necessarily makes accumulating to a majority more difficult. The second- largest state by population, Texas, may delay voting until April and the largest state, California, has put off its primary until June 5.
Of course, one candidate could win in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and sew up the nomination very early. With the mix of weak candidates that seems unlikely. Republicans may not have a candidate until their Tampa convention on Aug. 30.
There are eerie parallels to the 1952 contest between Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Sen. Robert Taft, R-Ohio. In both cases the issue was over a legitimacy of delegates that would be decided by credential and rules fights over who would be allowed to vote for a presidential nominee.
The Eisenhower forces accused Taft’s of “stealing” the delegates in three states, provoked a fight over a “fair play” rule, and since they decided who voted, won the nomination, enraging the conservatives supporting Taft.
Unless one candidate comes to the GOP convention in 2012 with a clear majority, the temptation to challenge the “unfairness” of denying (or seating), or selecting without proportionality, the half and more delegates from the offending states will be overwhelming.
The establishment will control the preconvention committees and will be predisposed to oppose the more “radical” conservative and successfully nominate the “safer” moderate. The same fairness rhetoric would be supported by the media too, who fear a strong conservative who might defeat a weakened Obama and govern conservatively.
Conservatives and tea partiers would be outraged, but at the end of the day would support the establishment candidate over the incumbent party’s president, just as they did after the Eisenhower selection.
In a poor economy, the GOP nominee would probably win the election but would govern moderately. Four years later, even without doing much, the economy might improve enough on its own to allow Republicans to win as Ike did in 1956, but also without a Republican Congress.
By 2020, entitlement bankruptcy and inflated money having been ignored, the economy would be ready for an imminent collapse and conservatives (and the country) would be even worse off than today. By then they would be responsible for the mess and so would be awaiting a new John F. Kennedy president with a supportive Democratic Congress ready to complete the Obama transformation.
Donald Devine was the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under President Ronald Reagan and is the editor of ConservativeBattleline Online.