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Florida's likely move would reshuffle primary calendar

Political world -- get ready to spend New Year's Eve in Des Moines. Again.

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon confirmed to NBC News that the Sunshine State will likely hold its primary on the last day of January.

"It is more than speculation. It's my expectation that Jan. 31 will be the date," Cannon said.

And if that's Florida date, it will force the early contests of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina -- which all had been scheduled to begin in Feb. 2012 -- to move up to January.

If that happens, the Iowa caucuses could take place in early January, while the New Hampshire primary would probably occur a week later. The South Carolina Republican Party will announce its primary date at a news conference tomorrow morning.

In Florida, Cannon helped select the nine-person committee that will vote on the state's primary date at a meeting this Friday. Because it is still up for a vote, it should be noted that Jan. 31 is only the LIKELY date; it is not set in stone. But Cannon said he has spoken to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Mike Haridopolos -- both of whom also selected members for the committee -- and everyone is on the same page about the Jan. 31 date. So Cannon expects the vote to be unanimous.

By holding the primary before March 6, Florida will violate rules set by the Republican National Committee and could lose half of its delegates. Cannon said the committee has taken into consideration the possible RNC punishment, but an early position on the primary calendar outweighed the threat of losing delegates. "It's more important that Florida voters voices be heard than to stringently comply with GOP rules," he said.

Cannon said Florida wanted to be fifth in the presidential nominating process, and the Jan. 31 date would still allow Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, to hold their place as the early primary and caucus states.

Chris Cate, spokesman for Florida's Secretary of State, said there has been no formal communication out of the Secretary of State's office and other early voting states, but both he and Cannon acknowledged the likelihood of informal talks.