Florida primary date shift could boost Bush

Washington (CNN)A Florida state lawmaker is proposing to push the state's primary back two weeks — a move that could potentially benefit former Gov. Jeb Bush over Sen. Marco Rubio, if the two end up going head-to-head in the Republican presidential primary contest.

According to local reports, Republican state Sen. Garrett Richter is introducing a bill to move Florida's primary back from March 1 to to March 15. The shift would allow the Florida Republican Party to award all of its delegates to the winner of the primary, rather than awarding them proportionally.
Republican National Committee rules aimed at preventing states from leapfrogging each other to gain a greater say in the nominating process allows Florida and other states to hold their primaries as early as March 1 without facing penalties. But the rules bar a state party from awarding delegates winner-take-all if the state holds its primary before March 15.
The shift would reverse the effort spearheaded by Rubio himself in 2008 and 2012 to move the state's primary earlier than RNC rules allow, a change that brought steep penalties on the state from the national party, including the loss of half its delegates.
    Such a move would almost certainly benefit Bush, who's the early favorite to win his home state in the primary. Preliminary polling of the GOP field in the state give Bush a wide lead over the rest of the pack, including Rubio. The last survey, conducted in late January by Quinnipiac University, gave Bush nearly a third of the vote, more than double Rubio's 15 percent support.
    "We want Florida to be meaningful and relevant in the presidential elections," Richter said, according to the Miami Herald. "We don't want to come under any penalties and we want to have the candidates come to Florida and actively campaign."
    Moving the primary and awarding delegates winner-take-all, however, could have the opposite effect, if Florida is seen as a done deal for Bush and other candidates decide their time and resources are better spent elsewhere.
    But the idea appears to be picking up some support in the state legislature, with Senate President Andy Gardiner also backing the shift. Both Gardiner and Richter are self-identified Bush supporters.
    Still, the state GOP would have the final say over how they'll allocate their delegates, and allies of Rubio were recently installed at the head of the party.