Politics & Government

Mississippi Gov. Barbour talks presidential politics in Florida

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a likely Republican presidential candidate, made a trip to the most important swing state’s Capitol, but he wouldn’t answer the most important question on the minds of political insiders.

Should Florida be punished for having an early primary?

“I’m going to run in the Florida primary whenever they have it,” Barbour said, declining to give a yes or no answer. “And I’m going to run in the Florida primary if I run for president. I’m going to run to win the Florida primary whether they have any delegates or have as many delegates or twice as many delegates or no delegates. So it’s up to Florida, what they want to do.”

Right now, Florida’s Republican legislative leaders want to keep the primary right where it’s called for in statute: Jan. 31.

But if the vote happens on that date, the state would lose at least half of its 116 delegates at the Republican National Convention, which is to be held in Tampa in August 2012. The embarrassment of losing delegates – the activists who officially nominate their party’s presidential candidate – has split Republicans inside and outside Florida.

Grassroots leaders want the primary moved so that the state is afforded its rightful place at the convention. But legislative leaders want the early primary to remain to ensure Florida is afforded the respect it deserves in national politics.

Republicans need to in order to win the White House. The state in 2012 will have 29 delegates – more than 10 percent of the total needed to win the Electoral College.

Without Florida, it’s almost impossible for Republicans to make up for the solidly Democratic states of California and New York.

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