Gov. Jan Brewer has to decide this week whether to move the state's presidential primary up to Jan. 31 in her bid to give Arizona a greater role in deciding who will be the Republican Party nominee.
But she may just be angling for something even better.
Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said Monday that his boss is still weighing the pros and cons of scrapping the current Feb. 28 date. But he said Brewer recognizes there are definite advantages to being early in the process.
"Gov. Brewer's first priority is to give the voters of Arizona the biggest platform possible with which to influence the presidential nomination this next year,'' he said. "She also wants to make certain that Southwestern issues are heard and dealt with by the presidential candidates.''
And that, Benson said, specifically means immigration policy and border security, two issues on which Brewer herself has gained a national reputation of sorts.
The governor does not need anyone's permission to make the change.
State law does set the presidential preference primary for the fourth Tuesday in February. But it specially gives the governor unilateral power to move it to any date she wants.
The only requirement is that she makes the pronouncement at least 150 days before the new date. And if Brewer wants a Jan. 31 primary, that means before Sunday.
Benson said, though, the governor still might be convinced to choose another date ahead of Feb. 28 -- or even keep the election on that day -- if there is some trade-off for Arizona.
"There are potentially other ways you could give Arizona a large platform in this (presidential selection) process,'' he said.
For example, the Republican National Committee could guarantee that Arizona would be the site of a debate among the contenders if Brewer backs off the Jan. 31 date.
"That would certainly be one way to go about drawing a lot of attention to this state, making sure Southwestern issues are dealt with,'' Benson said. And he acknowledged that RNC officials have been in talks with the administration, though not with Brewer herself.
"The governor is a good negotiator,'' he said.
One thing not in the equation, Benson said, is whether Arizona's role at the national convention will be diminished.
Republican Party rules sharply slash the number of delegates allocated to any state that which jumps ahead of four which have special permission to have early contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
But Benson said the rules already impose the penalty on any state which jumps into the fray before the "Super Tuesday'' set for the first week in March. Even with a Feb. 28 date, he said, Arizona's delegate strength remains at risk.
Brewer herself told Capitol Media Services last month that the bottom line is ensuring that Arizonans are "major players in the 2012 campaign.''
One potential compromise would be for Brewer to move up the primary -- but not by four full weeks. And even if she issues no proclamation by this weekend, that 150-day deadline still leaves other dates before Feb. 28 open.
Even if Brewer acts, there is no guarantee that Arizona will, in fact, get the jump on some other states.
Florida already is angling for a Jan. 31 primary. That, in turn, likely would mean that Iowa would move up its caucuses into early January and New Hampshire would also advance its primary to retain its first-in-the-nation status.