AP Photo/Jim Cole
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | 9:05 p.m.
Mitt Romney has released his schedule of debate appearances for the next few months, and guess what: Nevada’s not on it.
Well that’s not totally the case. Romney will make a showing in the Silver State Oct. 18 in a debate to be held in conjunction with the Western Republican Leadership Conference and broadcast on CNN, a fact that conference Chairman Jon Porter received enthusiastically.
“We’re looking forward to hosting a debate in October that not only showcases the GOP presidential field, but also provides a forum to discuss the issues that really matter to Western voters,” Porter said.
But he’s not showing up for an earlier debate, also billed as a national broadcast, in July.
Nevada-based Citizen Outreach Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, and conservative publication The Daily Caller have announced they will host a debate to coincide with the Conservative Leadership Conference in Las Vegas on July 10, to be streamed live on YouTube, the group announced Tuesday. The debate will feature Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson and ATR President Grover Norquist as hosts.
But that event was not on Romney’s schedule, which featured six other debates the Republican front-runner has committed to between now and the fall.
Romney declining to appear may be a more significant development for that debate than it is for Romney.
Debate organizers invited Republicans including Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman, the latest candidate to toss his hat in the ring Tuesday morning.
But it appears that only one guest — pizza magnate Cain, who is also speaking at the conference that’s serving as the anchor for the debate — has actually accepted the invitation or confirmed he or she would show.
Citizen Outreach President Chuck Muth deferred a request for details to his partner entities, explaining that although he’s in charge of the conference, they’re in charge of the debate. The Sun did reach Americans for Tax Reform spokesman John Kartch, but he didn’t respond to our request for a list of specific names of confirmed participants.
Daily Caller spokesman Kurt Bardella said: “We’re expecting all the candidates to participate,” with a promise that the organizations would release statements about their roster in the next week or so, but would not confirm whether any candidates were confirmed to attend.
With front-runner Romney not there, there’s seems to be less reason for others to hop on board.
Unless, that is, they want to jump in and take the opportunity to introduce themselves to Nevada, which in 2008 was one of Romney’s most solid strongholds.
There are stakes this year that make the race to steal Romney’s caucus crown — or at least come in second — worth running hard. For the first time, Nevada’s delegates won’t be winner-take-all: So even a strong showing can translate into an extra boost at the national convention next summer.
One potential threat to Romney’s super-stronghold is Huntsman, who served until recently as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China.
Huntsman and Romney have potential ins with Nevada’s Mormon community, which is both sizable and turns out in big numbers for those party caucuses.
Huntsman also has Western credentials that would seem to outweigh Romney’s: Although Romney did rescue the faltering Olympic efforts in Salt Lake City, Huntsman was a Republican governor of that state.
Romney and Huntsman will vie for more than just the Mormon vote. Nevada’s Republican Party also has a strong Tea Party influence, as evidenced during the midterm elections — and there, Bachmann has proved herself to be a real favorite.
But if other Republican candidates decide to follow Romney’s lead and avoid a double-dip into Las Vegas, here’s the list of where they may end up appearing (Romney’s list of confirmed debates and their sponsors):
• Iowa, Aug. 11: Fox News and the Republican Party of Iowa.
• Simi Valley, Calif., Sept. 7: NBC and Politico.
• Tampa, Fla., Sept. 12: CNN and the Tea Party Express.
• Orlando, Fla., Sept. 22: Fox News and the Republican Party of Florida.
• Hanover, N.H., Oct. 11: The Washington Post and Bloomberg News.
• Las Vegas, Oct. 18: CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference.