After weeks of nervous speculation, the early primary states are slowly solidifying the dates their voters will go to the polls to select their choices for the Republican presidential nominee.
South Carolina, the fourth state in line after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, is planning to hold its primary on January 21, 2011, Secretary of State Chad Connelly will announce Monday.
The date of the “First in the South” contest comes only three days after a Florida commission made its decision to sidestep Republican National Committee (RNC) rules and set their primary on January 31, 2011.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner also made news last Friday when he announced the state’s filing period and said he could not rule out a 2011 primary date.
If New Hampshire waits until January, however, that means five primaries will be crunched into January. Some speculate the Iowa caucus will be held on January 2.
The third state in line — Nevada — will, according to its bylaws, hold its caucus the first Saturday after the New Hampshire primary.
South Carolina’s move violates RNC rules, which previously reserved early February for the first four states. As a result, the Palmetto State could lose half its delegates at the nominating convention.
The South Carolina GOP, however, maintains that they had no choice — Florida’s move forced their hand.
“Last Friday, a nine person committee brought chaos to the 2012 calendar,” said Connelly in a statement. “Today, South Carolina is making things right.”
“South Carolina Republicans have a thirty year track record of picking the eventual Republican presidential nominee,” he added. “We will continue that historic tradition on January 21, 2012.”
Historically, the South Carolina primary is known for preserving or solidifying the frontrunners of the Republican field. Bob Dole won the primary in 1996. George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004, and John McCain won the state in 2008.