Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was the first Republican presidential candidate to announce that he will boycott the Nevada caucuses if they're held to January 14, which would push the New Hampshire primary into December. That's because Huntsman has to do well in New Hampshire -- he's essentially running a one-state campaign right now. It's also because Huntsman will probably lose badly in Nevada. Other candidates who will likely lose there too soon followed Huntsman's lead -- Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, National Journal's Sarah B. Boxer reports. So Huntsman is taking it a step further. On Friday he announced he's boycotting next week's Republican primary debate, which is being held in Las Vegas, CNN's Mark Preston reports. Instead, he'll hold a "'First in the Nation' Town Hall" in New Hampshire. Very clever.
When Huntsman was a shiny new candidate, the Las Vegas Sun's Anjeanette Damon speculated that Huntsman and Mitt Romney might split Nevada's Mormon vote. In 2008, Romney won the Nevada caucuses, in part because Mormons made up 25 percent of caucus-goers, and 95 percent of them picked Romney. But Nevadans haven't taken an interest in Huntsman. He's consistently polled at 2 percent or less in the state. In August, Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen marveled, "Huntsman polls at only 2% even though he served as Governor in the state next door and even though the state has a decent sized Mormon population. This guy isn't getting any traction anywhere."
Romney announced he's not going to join the Nevada boycott. He's long had a solid lead in the state -- his campaign is so confident that it lobbied Nevada Republicans to move the vote to January, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported, "so that he could maintain momentum coming out of New Hampshire, a state he expects to win." Huntsman, of course, can't let that happen. So he's sucking up to New Hampshire as much as possible. But he's not actually making much of a sacrifice by skipping the debate. His debate performances have been weak, marked mostly by dad jokes and Kurt Cobain references. He's such an non-entity that his opponents have barely noticed, according to an analysis of direct attacks by University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier. Huntsman's fielded just five attacks in the seven debates, compared to 39 against Rick Perry and 29 against Romney. Huntsman has attacked Romney seven times; Romney has returned the favor just once.