HOPKINTON, N.H. — Jon Huntsman may have skipped out on CNN’s Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, but at his town hall event here tonight, he worked the stage like it was the Improv at Harrah’s.
“You see, I was offered an invitation to a game show tonight out in Las Vegas,” Huntsman joked to a packed house . “It’s called a presidential debate. There will be sound bites, and there will be talking points, and there will be buzzers.
“You’ll probably have some people wander around after the show is over,” Huntsman continued, walking across the floor. “I know my friend Herman Cain will likely play the roulette wheel and he’ll be focusing on getting the ball on 9, 9, 9. And Romney will likely be staying at Trump Tower because he’s already won the apprenticeship for the presidency. … I thought we’d come here together and talk about serious issues because I’ve also heard that what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Vegas. And I say that what happens in New Hampshire impacts the world.”
Last week, Huntsman was the first GOP candidate to announce that he would boycott the Nevada caucus if it threatened New Hampshire’s position as the first primary in the nation, with five of the seven other major candidates announcing soon after that they would do the same. However, Huntsman was the only one to take his threat one step further by rejecting his invitation to participate in CNN’s Las Vegas debate.
At an event this afternoon, Huntsman told a small group of reporters that his GOP rivals were making the wrong decision by appearing at the debate.
“All I can say is they’re missing out on a huge opportunity by not embracing a total boycott of the Nevada caucus and doing what the New Hampshire voters would expect,” Huntsman said. “That’s to stand in a town hall meeting, delivering a vision for this country and taking questions from the average voters here. That’s where the action is and that’s what ultimately is going to allow someone to win the New Hampshire primary. And at a critical time when we need to be discussing our economy and how we’re going to create jobs, that’s how it’s done. So I’m happy to be here.”
While Huntsman was able to pull a fairly large New Hampshire crowd away from the debate, it is unclear whether his strategy to boycott Nevada will lead to success in the Granite State.
“I always appreciate the opportunity to meet people face to face rather than watch them on television,” local resident Doug Maynard, who was at the Hopkinton town hall, told ABC News. “It’s a double-edged strategy. He’s getting a lot of attention because he’s not at the debate. … But I don’t know that he’s making any significant statement by boycotting the debate other than it gets him some different publicity.”