Leaders of both political parties don't want to talk about it publicly, but they are deeply concerned about the prospect of messy, divisive credential fights at their national conventions next year. The reason: a growing furor over the Florida Legislature's decision to schedule its presidential primary on January 29--in violation of national party rules.
Last weekend, the Democratic National Committee voted to deny Florida Democrats any delegates at the national convention if the state party doesn't act within 30 says to delay its primary or make it a straw vote that isn't binding on delegate selection. The Democratic rules forbid all but four states--Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina--from holding their primaries or caucuses before February 5. State Democratic leaders seem disinclined to back down. The Republicans have a similar dilemma, but the national party hasn't formally acted yet.
Florida leaders of both parties told U.S. News that they are frustrated by the preferential treatment given to Iowa and New Hampshire as the first states in the nominating process. Florida and other states' leaders argue that Iowa and New Hampshire aren't diverse or big enough to merit all the attention that they get from the candidates every four years.
"A lot of us want to send a full delegation to the convention and demand to be seated," says a prominent GOP leader in Florida. "We're in a confrontational mood." (If Florida holds its primary on January 29, as expected, other states will probably move even earlier than now scheduled, further confusing the process.)
The Florida dust-up wouldn't be very good for the party leaders on either side because it would come just when the presidential nominees will be seeking as much unity as possible. That's why many political insiders say that, in the end, the respective nominees will insist that the Florida delegation be seated. But if the delegate race is close and there is no clear nominee, the situation could get ugly indeed.
--Kenneth T. Walsh