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House speaker: Fla. primary likely Jan. 31

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida is poised to hold its presidential primary on Jan. 31, a move likely to mean an earlier start to the GOP nominating contests than the national Republican Party had planned.

House Speaker Dean Cannon said Wednesday that was the likely date for the Florida primary as the state works to ensure that it votes right behind the four that are traditionally the first to hold presidential primaries or caucuses -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

The Republican said scheduling the primary for the last day of January would make Florida a major player in deciding the GOP nominee without jumping in front of those four states. Florida's hand was forced, he said, by other states that have moved up their dates, including Missouri, which set its primary for Feb. 7.

"It's not a done deal," Cannon said by telephone. He noted that the tentative date could change if states other than the first four try to jump or match Florida.

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina have promised to protect their early voting status by moving their contests to earlier in the year, if needed.

South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly, who has sole authority to set a date, plans to hold a news conference today. He said "it's likely" he will announce a date for South Carolina's primary. Georgia's secretary of state also has scheduled an announcement today.

"We're going to be the first in the South primary," Connelly said. -- AP

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