MIAMI ( – With the 2012 primary season rapidly approaching, Florida will once again become the jewel of the early voting states as candidates vie to win the state.

South Floridians remember when the state became ground zero for the dispute over the 2000 presidential election. Ever since then, the late Tim Russert’s call that it’s all about Florida has ruled presidential elections.

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In 2012, Florida Republicans want to be at the front of the line in the primary season. A select committee is determining the date for Florida’s primary, but reports have leaked out that Florida will move its primary to January 31st.

That would set off a frenzy of states rushing to get in front of the Sunshine State and make the primary season possibly start as early as January 1.

“This nominating contest is wide open for the Republican,” said Coral Gables political analyst Fernand Amandi.

Fernand said that Florida’s move would make the state a major player in determining the eventual Republican nominee for President. That will be on top of the role Florida will play by hosting the 2012 Republican National Convention.

“It’s hard to say that the winner of a Florida primary, whether it’s the Republican or Democratic primary, wouldn’t be someone to contend with in the general election because of the importance of the state in terms of presidential politics,” Amandi said.

Florida’s power was displayed last Saturday during a GOP straw poll. Former Godfather’s CEO Herman Cain had become an afterthought in the race, but a victory in the Florida straw poll thrust him back to the top of the race.

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It also cost GOP frontrunner, Texas Governor Rick Perry, dearly. Perry’s poll numbers had leveled on in recent weeks, but after his loss in Florida and national GOP members questioning Perry’s candidacy; his campaign is now floundering.

Florida voters are ready to embrace the earlier primary.

“From the panhandle down to Key West, we do have a large population,” said voter Chris David. “So I don’t see why we shouldn’t play a larger role.”

But moving the primary is not without risks. In 2008, Florida moved the primary up and dust-ups in both parties threatened to not count half of Florida’s delegates.

The national Republican Party had set rules so that Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada would be the first four states to have primaries. The party has again threatened the GOP with consequences for violating Republican Party rules.

“I think it’s not good,” complained voter Chester Guyon. “We’ll lose half the delegates. I think it should be moved to where it used to be.”

Plus, an early Florida primary would be expensive for candidates. That would tip the scales towards well-financed candidates. Plus, due to the sheer size of Florida, it would make it hard to meet and greet with everyone, so political advertising would be at a premium.

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An official announcement is expected on Florida’s primary election date is expected on Friday.

Ted Scouten