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South Carolina to hold presidential primary on January 21

Oct 3, 2011, 9:44 a.m.
U.S. Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney stand during the American Principles Project Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, South Carolina September 5, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Keane

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - South Carolina Republicans on Monday announced they will hold their presidential primary on January 21 as states jostle for increased influence in the presidential nominating process.

Defying national party leaders, Florida on Friday set its primary election for January 31.

The largest of the presidential swing states, Florida moved up its election to boost its clout in the process that will produce a Republican nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.

But only four states are authorized by the Republican National Committee to go first in the 2012 nominating process -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Voting had been scheduled to start with Iowa caucuses on February 6, the New Hampshire primary on February 14, Nevada caucuses on February 18 and the South Carolina primary on February 28.

South Carolina moved its primary earlier in response to Florida's move, state Republicans said.

"Last Friday, a nine-person committee brought chaos to the 2012 calendar. Today, South Carolina is making things right," said South Carolina Republican Chairman Chad Connelly in a statement.

"South Carolina Republicans have a 30-year track record of picking the eventual Republican presidential nominee. We will continue that historic tradition on January 21, 2012."

Matt Moore, executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, told Reuters on Monday that party leaders expected Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada to also move up their dates.

Party chairmen in all four states vowed last week to work in tandem to keep their favored spots.

Under the Republican National Committee rules, Florida will be punished with the automatic loss of half of its delegates to the party's nominating convention, which will be held in Tampa, Florida, in August 2012, senior party officials said.

By voting before February 1, South Carolina also will lose half their convention delegates.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Ellen Wulfhorst)

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