NH GOP leaders press candidates to boycott Nevada caucuses

Republican leaders in New Hampshire are intensifying their push to persuade the GOP presidential candidates to boycott the Nevada caucuses.

A petition is now online at www.boycottnevada.org urging “all candidates for President of the United States to boycott the 2012 Nevada Caucus and support New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary.”

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The site quotes New Hampshire state House Speaker Bill O’Brien and state Senate President Peter Bragdon, both of whom had strong denunciations for the game of primary leapfrogging that has unfolded.

“If Nevada does not move its caucus date back, I am calling on the presidential candidates to boycott the Nevada caucuses,” Bragdon told the New Hampshire Union Leader last Friday. “The New Hampshire primary has played a highly unique role in the presidential nominating process for decades. Nevada’s encroachment does not serve the candidates or — even more importantly, the voters — in a productive way.”

The accelerated primary calendar began when Florida moved its contest date to Jan. 31, prompting the traditional early voting states to move up the dates of their primaries and caucuses. But it was Nevada’s decision to hold its caucuses Jan. 14 that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said threatens the legitimacy of his state’s primary.


New Hampshire state law requires its primary take place at least one week before a “similar” election, which has led Gardner to publicly mull moving the primary into early December. National Republicans are pressuring him not to do this. New Hampshire is the only early voting state that has not set its contest date. On Monday, Iowa officially named Jan. 3 as the date of its caucuses, which would leave Tuesday, Jan. 10, open for New Hampshire. Gardner, however, has indicated that he doesn’t wish to hold his state’s contest so close to Nevada’s, and has also urged that state to change the date of its caucuses.

Some say the accelerated timeframe would benefit front-runner Mitt Romney, whose campaign strategy centers on doing well in New Hampshire.

But Romney’s strategy also focuses on doing well in Nevada, a state he won in 2008. He opened a campaign office there on Monday.

The influential Union Leader ran an op-ed Tuesday calling for Romney to “put New Hampshire voters’ minds at ease about his commitment to the primary and the value of selecting candidates the old-fashioned way” by joining the Nevada boycott.

The paper also made the argument that an earlier primary gives an unfair advantage to the front-runner: “[Jon] Huntsman, who entered the race in July, has a small campaign bank balance and smaller poll numbers. He needs New Hampshire, where candidates with meager resources still have a shot at the nomination. Romney has been campaigning for president since he lost the 2008 nomination to John McCain (who, by the way, was given up for dead until he won the New Hampshire primary on a shoestring budget).

“Romney is willing to sacrifice an institution beneficial to the republic (the New Hampshire primary) for his own political advantage. For the Nevada move weakens all 2012 candidates [who are] not named Romney and threatens all future New Hampshire primaries.”

So far only Huntsman and Rick Santorum have said they will boycott the Nevada caucuses.