Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman announced on Friday that he’ll boycott the Nevada presidential debate next Tuesday to stand in solidarity with New Hampshire. The Granite State and Nevada are sparring over when to hold their respective nominating contests: If Nevada holds its caucuses on Jan. 14, as the state has proposed, then New Hampshire may be forced to hold its primary in December 2011.
"Next Tuesday, Gov. Huntsman will boycott the Nevada presidential debate and instead hold a 'First-in-the-Nation' town-hall meeting in New Hampshire to discuss his bold plans to create jobs and reform America's foreign policy for the 21st century,” Huntsman campaign manager Matt David said in a statement.
Huntsman and fellow Republican presidential candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., have all promised to boycott the Nevada caucus if the state follows through with its proposed caucus date.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has not joined the boycott, and the Huntsman campaign suggested that Romney has egged Nevada on at New Hampshire's expense.
"While Mitt Romney's campaign has tried to game the system by encouraging Nevada to move to an earlier date, Gov. Huntsman is sticking up for the Granite State,” the campaign statement said. “We call on all other campaigns to join us, avoiding typical hypocritical politics by paying lip service to New Hampshire while campaigning in Nevada.”
The Romney campaign would not respond to Huntsman’s allegations. Last week, campaign spokesman Andrea Saul reinforced Romney’s commitment to competing “in every state.”
“He believes that Iowa’s first in-the-nation caucus and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary should be preserved, and he looks forward to competing in every other nominating contest -- whenever they are scheduled,” Saul said in a statement. “To be clear, states determine when their contests will be held.”
Huntsman has concentrated almost all of his campaign energy in New Hampshire. Lagging in poll ratings and fundraising totals, he is banking on a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary to keep him in the presidential race.
Tuesday's debate in Las Vegas will be hosted by CNN. It is part of the Western Republican Leadership Conference, which is featuring elected officials and candidates throughout the West.