WASHINGTON - Jon Huntsman, who has been mired far back in the field vying for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination, will boycott Tuesday's debate among the party's candidates to be held in Nevada, and instead hold a town hall meeting in New Hampshire.
Huntsman will skip the Nevada debate to stick up for New Hampshire, his campaign manager, Matt David, said Friday.
The two states are among several jockeying to be first or second to hold primary elections and caucus meetings that will determine the Republican candidate to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
Huntsman, a moderate, is staking his entire campaign on making a strong showing in the northeastern state where moderate voters play a larger role in the primary process than in other early-voting states.
"We call on all other campaigns to join us, avoiding typical hypocritical politics by paying lip service to New Hampshire, while campaigning in Nevada," David said.
Huntsman, a former Utah governor and Obama's former ambassador to China, has failed to garner more than 2 or 3 percent support in national opinion polls,
Despite his low poll numbers, Huntsman's support was high enough to qualify to participate in the debate, said CNN, its sponsor.
New Hampshire has jealously guarded its position of holding the first primary and the second contest overall in the presidential nominating race, behind the Iowa caucuses. But Nevada and other states are moving their contests forward, threatening New Hampshire's status.
Huntsman and three other Republican candidates who lag in opinion polls, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, said they might boycott Nevada's caucuses if the state follows through on a plan to move them up to mid-January. The Nevada caucuses had been due on February 18. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Jason McLure in Littleton, New Hampshire)
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