Several GOP Candidates Threaten Nevada Boycott

Several GOP Candidates Threaten Nevada Boycott

By Erin McPike - October 14, 2011

The Republican presidential nominating calendar is wreaking some havoc on campaigning in the run-up to the actual contests, given Nevada's new caucus date of Jan. 14.

Iowa and New Hampshire, which traditionally go first in the primary, are still in the process of rescheduling their respective elections days after recent changes by other states. A Republican senator on Thursday pointed to Florida's decision to vote on Jan. 31 as the origin of the problem, and complained that the Sunshine State "was always going to be important."

Nevertheless, it’s Nevada’s date change that has caused some consternation among the candidates. And the one who needs to make the biggest splash in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman, has pulled the trigger on boycotting the Silver State’s caucuses.

"In an effort to preserve New Hampshire's historic first-in-the-nation primary status, the Huntsman campaign will boycott the Nevada caucus as long as the state continues to jeopardize New Hampshire's primary date,” said Huntsman Campaign Manager Matt David in a statement Thursday. “We call on the other campaigns to join us, especially Governor Romney's campaign given their involvement in moving Nevada's date forward."

Huntsman’s maneuver, said New Hampshire GOP strategist Jamie Burnett, may help the former Utah governor, but he said it won’t necessarily hurt Romney, who enjoys a sizable lead in all Granite State polling.

Romney is campaigning actively in almost all of the early primary states. He is even scheduled next week to hit Iowa, which his campaign once considered skipping. His pathway to victory, though, had long been plotted through an early win in New Hampshire, where he is strongest. His candidacy has strengthened throughout the year as other candidates have stumbled, but for Huntsman, a strong showing in the Granite State is the only way forward.

Burnett said in an email that Huntsman’s move is “probably a smart play” because “he needs something to give him a boost in New Hampshire. But, let's not forget that Florida started this whole thing by moving up their date from March to January. South Carolina followed suit, probably moving up their date sooner than it had to. Now Nevada is squeezing New Hampshire and forcing our hand. Nevada boycott aside, all the candidates should be royally peeved at Florida, and the RNC should hold them 100% accountable for the mess that is being created. In the end, it hurts the process and disadvantages the voters who want a full vetting of the field.

“I don't know that the Romney campaign was involved in the discussions over the scheduling of Nevada's caucus date, as has been reported. I'll give the Romney campaign the benefit of the doubt that they were not involved, but it would be incredibly disappointing if they were. Not unlike McCain 2000, New Hampshire helped make Mitt Romney into a national political figure, so I'd expect his campaign to be as supportive, or more, than any other candidate moving forward. I think they know that, I think they respect the First in the Nation Primary's role, and I think they will act accordingly.”

The Romney campaign denied having anything to do with the date shift.

Newt Gingrich followed Huntsman's lead on Thursday night when he agreed to boycott the Nevada caucuses.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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