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May 28, 2015

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GOP candidates respond to Jon Huntsman’s call for Nevada caucus boycott

The front-runners didn't fall in line, but the rest of the Republican presidential field quickly echoed Jon Huntsman’s threat to boycott the Nevada caucus if the date isn't moved to accommodate New Hampshire's demands.

"As a citizen, I have always supported New Hampshire's First in the Nation Primary...Therefore, I will not compete in a state which holds its contest inside of one week of New Hampshire,” Newt Gingrich said in a statement. “I trust Governors Romney and Perry will join me in protecting the New Hampshire primary and campaigning in New Hampshire towards a January 10th primary contest."

Rick Santorum was more direct in a statement published on the website of Manchester, N.H. television station WMUR: “Nevada’s move has potentially forced the other early states to have primary’s near Christmas – and that destroys the primary process. I will not campaign in Nevada nor participate in the Nevada caucus if it doesn’t move its primary date.”

Gingrich’s and Santorum’s vows to shun the Silver State come after Huntsman, a former Utah governor, pledged this morning to “boycott the Nevada caucus as long as the state continues to jeopardize New Hampshire's primary date.”

Others may be joining the fray. According to reports, Michele Bachmann was leaning toward avoiding Nevada if the state would not change its date to accommodate the New Hampshire law as interpreted by its Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the only man empowered to schedule the contest.

Bachmann spokesman Alice Stewart said “we’ll support New Hampshire in their effort to be the first primary state,” but would not directly commit to shunning Nevada.

The candidates' professed discontent may not change that much on the ground in Nevada, however. Huntsman, Santorum, Gingrich and Bachmann make up the bottom half of the field of eight who have been featured in recent GOP debates. The same group will again be on stage Tuesday, when CNN broadcasts the next Republican debate from The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.

Romney and Ron Paul, who came in first and second, respectively, in Nevada’s 2008 caucuses, refused to join in pressuring Nevada to change its caucus date of Jan. 14.

“This talk of boycotts doesn’t serve the electoral process any more than the states’ jockeying for position and primacy,” Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. “New Hampshire deserves its rightful place as the first primary in the nation, but we will fight to preserve that place without depriving Nevada voters of their say in the 2012 nomination.”

“Governor Romney is competing in every other nominating contest across the country -- whenever they are scheduled,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said this morning. “It is up to each state to determine the date of their primary or caucus, and Gov. Romney has consistently supported Nevada’s status as an early nominating contest that follows New Hampshire.”

The Perry campaign more vague in their response, but disputed the suggestion that they planned to join Gingrich, Huntsman and others in calling for Nevada to change its date.

“Gov. Perry respects and supports the long tradition of New Hampshire having the first primary in the nation. The movement of early primaries and caucuses has pitted states against each other and will only hurt the political process,” said campaign manager Rob Johnson, also in a statement. “Gov. Perry will actively and vigorously campaign in every state. Ultimately, we hope the Republican National Committee will come up with rules that are enforceable and protect the traditional calendar.”

A spokesman for the Herman Cain campaign did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.

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