"Special Report" Runs Down Early 2016 GOP Primary Schedule

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BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Last night we announced the first GOP debate of the presidential season, August 6th in Cleveland, 11 weeks from now.

Fox News and Facebook will host. Tonight, how the primary calendar is shaping up. Here's senior national correspondent John Roberts.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: After the chaos of 2012, when a race to be first nearly pushed the Iowa caucuses into Christmas week, Republicans are counting on a far more orderly calendar this time around.

IOWA REPUBLICAN: We're confident it's going to be February 1st. We haven't heard any serious indications of any state jumping ahead of us.

ROBERTS: At the moment, Iowa will kick off the first of the primary season on the first of February.

New Hampshire follows a week later.

South Carolina is Saturday Feb. 20th with Nevada on the 23rd.

Under new rules laid down by the Republican National Committee, those are the only states that can go in February.


Anyone who tries to upset the apple cart will face harsh penalties.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC: In the past states could jump around and the penalties were basically slaps on the wrist. And they really weren't upheld. Where nowadays the rules that we've changed actually almost completely eliminate a state's relevancy.

ROBERTS: March 1st is the next big date highlighted by the primary in Texas, a so-called S.E.C. primary, banding together with Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.

GEORGIA REPUBLICAN: It's well warranted. The south is growing. There's a lot of people moving here. We should be involved in the process of deciding who the nominees will be.

ROBERTS: By March 8th, some 50% of delegates will be awarded but in such a wide field no one may have broken from the pack.

Which makes the March 15th contest in Florida extremely important. It will be the first winner take all state.

It's then that a clear front runner may emerge or as some Republicans fear, a prolonged battle may shape up.

PREIBUS: I think we've set it up in such a way to give us the best process that allows for the most participation and a quicker resolution. Now, that doesn't mean it's always going to happen that way.

ROBERTS: And while Iowans are at the moment confident their outsized influence will be preserved, don't expect they'll take any challenge to their supremacy lying down...

Much of the primary calendar remains in flux with many states still considering moves. While there may not be a competition to go first, it's clear everyone wants a bigger say in who the nominee is.

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