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States' rights? RNC punishes Florida GOP with second-class hotel rooms, etc. for early primary

Second-class hotel rooms. A poor view on the Republican National Convention floor in Tampa. A loss of VIP passes.

Florida Republicans had to swallow these penalties Wednesday when the Republican National Committee's rules panel approved the punishments because the state bucked the party by holding an early primary on Jan. 31

Because it moved its primary earlier than March, Florida already lost half of its 100 delegates – the people who technically cast votes for the party nominee at the convention.

Adding insult to the injury: The convention will be held in Tampa this August.

“We’re screwed,” said Tony DiMatteo, Pinellas County Republican state committeeman. “We’re going to have lousy floor space and lose a little prestige. And for what?”

He said that having less-choice hotel rooms is a major inconvenience. The convention will be a high-security affair, so getting around will be difficult and good rooms near the convention site are pretty much a must.

 “It affects everybody,” he said. “Even if you live in Tampa Bay, you have to stay at the hotel. When they meet for events, it's in secure facilities.”

DiMatteo said other rank-and-file Republicans are upset as well, exposing an on-again off-again rift between grassroots Republicans and the elected officials who made the primary early.

One of those elected officials, state House Republican leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera said Republicans “anticipated” some of the penalties. But making the primary early made Florida count. And so it was worth the risk.

“Florida will help decide the nominee,” Lopez-Cantera said. “The candidates are coming here to spend time and resources they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Not all of them are, though. Ron Paul is skipping the state because of its expense and the loss of delegates. Still, Mitt Romney is advertising across the state and he’ll be in Palm Beach tomorrow. Newt Gingrich will be in Miami and then Orlando.

Some Republican officials in other states, particularly South Carolina, were embittered by Florida’s move. One said he wanted the RNC to draw “blood.”

The Republican Party of Florida didn’t take that comment lightly.

“We find the idea that any Republican organization is going to war w another as tremendously counterproductive to our ultimate goal of electing a Republican to the White House,” said RPOF spokesman Brian Hughes.

The party’s nominee can also help reverse some of the penalties approved by the RNC rules committee today. A full RNC vote is Friday.

Polk County Republican Paul Senft, who sits on the RNC's rules committee, voted to penalize the state along with everyone else. But he said he did it so that he could have "standing" to bring the measure up in the future. If he voted "no" and lost, he wouldn't have the right to have the matter reconsidered.

Senft said the resolution could have been worse. He said the language in the resolution isn't clear, either, because it calls for Florida to have "reduced priority" for hotel rooms and seating. He said the phrase isn't defined. So it will be up to another committee and RNC Chair Reince Priebus how to define and enforce the penalty.

"There some wiggle room," Senft said. But, he said, Florida lost face at the RNC: We'll have to earn back some credibility before we get another convention."

Priebus tried to quell concerns of Florida Republicans on Wednesday. He said there will be “plenty of opportunity to have a great time” at the convention.

“We're going to work great with Florida. We're going to have a world-class convention. We have thousands of seats to fill,” he said. “And Folks from Florida are going to have a wonderful time in Tampa.”

Here's the resolution that was voted on today:

WHEREAS the State of Florida is holding a primary in violation of Rule 15(b) on such date that it caused other states to violate Rule 15(b) and thus to incur the mandatory penalties of Rule 16(a) and Rule 16(e)(1); and it therefore

RESOLVED that the Standing Committee on Rules of the Republican National Committee hereby determines that the State of Florida should incur additional penalties under Rule 16(e)(1) and hereby assess the following penalties:

       1) The delegates and alternate delegates shall receive reduced priority for housing during the     national convention; and
    2) The delegates and alternate delegates shall receive reduced priority for seating on the floor at the     national convention; and
    3) The delegates and alternate delegates shall not receive the guest passes to the national     convention that would otherwise be allocated to them under Rule 28 or the VIP passes to the     national convention to which they would otherwise be entitled. All such guest passes and VIP passes shall revert to the Republican National Committee

ADOPTED in a duly called meeting of the Standing Committee on Rules of the Republican National Committee on this 11th day of January, 2012.