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Time ticks down on primary date

Timing’s everything when it comes to politics.

And the time for deciding is running out, at least as far as the Georgia presidential preference primary is concerned.

In the past, Georgia has tried a number of ways to increase its influence on the presidential landscape, which is, quite frankly, tilted much to far in the direction of Iowa, where presidential hopes are buoyed or dashed in caucus votes, and New Hampshire, where every candidate wants to prove he or she “can win.” Georgia got in with the Super Tuesday crowd, which often left it overlooked as candidates focused on larger states and ones that were more in play.

With Georgia as bright red a Republican state as there is these days, Republican officials want to impact the selection of the GOP nominee on the 2012 ballot. To do that, state officials — or, more exactly, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s chief elections official — have to pick a date that will accomplish two things:

  1. Get candidates to come to Georgia to campaign;

  2. Not get the state in so much hot water with the Republican National Committee that the Georgia loses delegates who will decide the nominee at the national convention.

The Georgia Legislature laid the decision in Kemp’s lap and gave him until Dec. 1 to name a date. The RNC, however, wants the date set by Saturday and has warned Georgia Republicans that it will strip them of half their delegates if the primary is scheduled to take place before March 6.

It was reported by The Associated Press late Wednesday that Kemp will announce that the Georgia Republican Presidential Primary will be held on Super Tuesday.

And while Democrats, who have less at stake since it’s hard to conceive that President Obama wouldn’t be nominated for a second term, are along for the ride on this, they also would lose half their convention delegation by holding a primary to early to suit the Democratic National Committee.

There’s also a question of whether earlier is better. In 2008, Georgia moved its primary up a month and fell on the same date as California and New York, which relegated our state to the status of afterthought. If there’s a tight race for the GOP nod, a later primary with Georgia’s 76 delegates at stake would get more attention for the state.

As University of Georgia Charles Bullock noted, the name of the is being the biggest prize of delegates on whichever day the primary is conducted.

The Legislature, at least, has made the state more nimble by entrusting Kemp with the decision rather than locking down a date through the General Assembly.

Now lawmakers have to hope that he guesses right.