Christmas in Iowa? Maybe, at least for the Republican Party's presidential candidates. The Hawkeye State, which is scheduled to host its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in early February, might reschedule if a top Florida lawmaker makes good on his Tuesday threat to leapfrog Iowa by moving Florida's presidential primary up to Jan. 31. If Florida goes through with it, the switch could "produce total chaos" by encouraging Iowa and other early-voting states to move up their dates — drastically shortening the campaign season. How will this play out? Here, four possibilities:
1. If Florida shifts, so will four other states
Florida's decision would "trigger a flood of calendar moves" by other states looking to "shore up their relevance" in the nominating process, says Peter Hamby at CNN. That means Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — the four states that traditionally hold the first contests. (Currently, Iowa is scheduled for Feb. 6, followed by New Hampshire on Feb. 14, Nevada on Feb. 18, and South Carolina on Feb. 28.) Iowa has pledged to go first no matter what, and "all four states have pledged to move and work as a block," says Lynda Waddington at The Washington Independent.
2. And that would "set off a chain reaction"
States are "desperate for the kind of boost that swarms of politicians, activists, reporters, and hangers-on can give to the businesses," says Rick Moran at American Thinker. So in addition to the traditional "first four," watch for Colorado, Georgia, and Missouri — which have all flirted already with moving up their dates — to try and leapfrog Florida, which could then push Iowa and New Hampshire into December. The Republican candidates and their staffs will "likely be spending part of the holiday season in hotel rooms in Des Moines," says Hamby.
3. The Republican National Committee might rewrite its rules
The RNC prohibits states (other than the first four) from holding primaries or caucuses before March 6, says Zeke Miller at Business Insider. Break the rule, and the RNC strips a state of half its delegates at the party's nominating convention — greatly diluting a state's influence in selecting the party's nominee. But now, says Patrick O'Connor at The Wall Street Journal, the RNC may have to reconsider. Florida is arguably the most important swing state in a general election, and Tampa is hosting the GOP's 2012 convention. It's unlikely that the RNC would risk alienating the critical Sunshine State by enforcing this rule.
4. But Florida would finally have the influence it deserves
Florida is the most important swing state, says Dan Amira at New York. Why should it "wait in line behind states like South Carolina and New Hampshire"? The current system allows one candidate to potentially dominate the first four contests in less important states, and maybe even effectively wrap up the nomination before Florida gets a chance to weigh in. That's as foolish as the Yankees saving their ace pitcher for game four of a best-of-five playoff series. "If we were Florida, we might throw a tantrum, too."