The Campaign Spot

Florida’s GOP Primary Is Winner-Take-All . . . for Now.

So the winner on Tuesday gets all of Florida’s 50 delegates to the GOP convention, right? It says so right in the Republican Party of Florida primary rules.

Eh . . . probably. You see, the Republican National Committee wanted the primary season to start later (that didn’t work out so well) and they wanted the early states to award their delegates proportionally. But those rules came about under Chairman Michael Steele; by the time Florida set its date, Reince Priebus was running the show, and the RNC approved the current winner-takes-all system. The Florida GOP says it’s a non-issue; the current RNC leadership has signed off on the winner-take-all system.

The Tampa Bay Times’s Adam Smith reports, “All it takes is a registered Florida Republican to file a protest with the RNC, and the party’s contest committee would have to consider the issue when it meets in August just before the convention.”

The party’s primary rules were intended to encourage a longer primary season, while ensuring that four smaller states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — hold the first contests. Only those states were permitted to hold primaries or caucuses before March 6, the RNC decreed, while any state that held a contest prior to April 1 would award its delegates proportionally. Under the rules, any party that violated the sanctioned calendar would lose half its delegates and potentially face further penalties.

Republican leaders in Florida, determined to give the state a big say in picking the nominee, decided having their delegation slashed from 99 to 50 was worth it and set Florida’s primary for Jan. 31. The RNC has said Florida will be a winner-take-all primary, but that decision is still subject to challenge.

If tomorrow’s results are in line with recent polls, Mitt Romney will win 50 delegates and everyone else will win none. (Thus, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul spent a limited amount of time and resources in Florida.) But if it were proportional, Romney would win about 20-25, Gingrich would win about 14-16, Santorum would win about 5-7, and Paul would win 5-6.

In other words, Newt Gingrich may have enormous incentive to file protests and perhaps even legal challenges to the RNC to make Florida allocate its delegates proportionally.

It wouldn’t be Florida without a voting controversy, would it?


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