The Republican National Committee announced that any state that holds a primary prior to February 5, 2008 will be penalized by losing half of its convention delegates.
From the New York Times: “‘The rules are clear,’ said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. ‘Any state that holds their primary outside of the window shall be penalized delegates.’ States are not allowed to hold primaries before Feb. 5.”
This statement means that New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Wyoming and Michigan will be penalized for holding early primaries. Two other states, Nevada and Iowa, do not fall under these guidelines because those states hold non-binding caucuses, not primaries.
There is still time for these states to adjust their primary dates to comply with RNC rules and therefore be allowed all of their delegates at the convention. However, Michigan and Florida officials believe that they will not, and should not, be penalized for holding early primaries. New Hampshire GOP Chair Fergus Cullen said the state is willing to lose half its delegates in order to maintain their status of being the state to hold the nation’s first primary.
This announcement by the RNC, and subsequent actions by the states, could truly reshape the campaign season. Candidates have focused much of their attention in these states; it is typical in presidential elections that the candidate who wins in the first few states will go on to win the nomination. However, if these five states comply with RNC rules and move back to the February 5th date, candidates will have to expand their focus to emcompass approximately 20 states who will hold February 5th primaries.