Posted at 01:25 PM ET, 10/17/2011

Jon Huntsman opts out of Republican debate in Nevada

Jon M. Huntsman Jr. is running out of time. And money. Dead last in some polls and deep in debt, Huntsman, who has been serious, then a jokester, then the civility candidate, then the hatchet man, now has a new role: New Hampshire’s Number One Primary Champion.

Now Huntsman is taking another stand for New Hampshire: The former diplomat is skipping Tuesday night’s Nevada debate among the Republican presidential candidates.

Huntsman doesn’t really have a choice but to stick all of his apples in the New Hampshire basket.

If he loses badly in the first-in-the-nation primary, where he reached 10 percent in one recent poll and where he moved his campaign headquarters, his struggling GOP presidential candidacy would likely end.
HANOVER, NH - OCTOBER 11: Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. during the presidential debate sponsored by The Washington Post and Bloomberg at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. (Toni Sandys - THE WASHINGTON POST)

So, over the last couple of days, Huntsman has been rabble-rouser and apple-polisher, leading a boycott of the Nevada caucus. The boycott is aimed at preserving the sanctity of New Hampshire’s primary.

Recently, Nevada moved its caucus to Jan. 14, cramping the Granite State’s style by trying to force it to move its primary (the state has yet to set a date) to an even earlier date. In response, five other GOP candidates, including Herman Cain have decided to boycott the Nevada caucus.

Other than the fact that there will be seven candidates on stage rather than eight, it’s hard to see how Huntsman’s absence will change much of anything at the debate, given that he has yet to have a breakthrough performance.

Meanwhile, Huntsman will file paperwork for the state’s primary Monday afternoon, and hold a Tuesday townhall in Hopkinton.

“While Mitt Romney’s campaign has tried to game the system by encouraging Nevada to move to an earlier date, Governor Huntsman is sticking up for the Granite State,” Matt David said in a statement released Friday, alleging that Romney’s camp engineered the move. “We call on all other campaigns to join us, avoiding typical hypocritical politics by paying lip service to New Hampshire, while campaigning in Nevada.”

But will the move help the former Utah governor at all in the polls?

“We care about defending the first in the nation primary, but I don’t think this is going to help him in New Hampshire,”said Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the state’s Republican Party.

“One of [Huntsman’s] best opportunities to have a breakthrough moment is to participate in a debate. I just think he has more to gain by showing up and saying something interesting then by issuing a statement and staying away.”

By  |  01:25 PM ET, 10/17/2011

 
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