Jon Huntsman to Boycott Las Vegas Debate

One candidate will be noticeably absent from Tuesday’s presidential debate in Las Vegas: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

The GOP contender is ditching CNN’s Western Republican Presidential Debate, instead holding a “First-in-the-Nation” Town Hall meeting in New Hampshire.

“While Mitt Romney’s campaign has tried to game the system by encouraging Nevada to move to an earlier date, Gov. Huntsman is sticking up for the Granite State,” Huntsman’s campaign manager, Matt David, said in a written statement. “We call on all other campaigns to join us, avoiding typical hypocritical politics by paying lip service to New Hampshire, while campaigning in Nevada. New Hampshire plays a vital role in our nominating system in that – unlike any other primary – it gives voters the opportunity to engage substantively with the candidates on the myriad issues facing our country.”

Huntsman is placing all his bets on New Hampshire, moving his Orlando campaign headquarters to 1850 Elm St. in Manchester, once home to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Granite State base. The Huntsman campaign Thursday threatened to boycott the Nevada caucus if it jeopardized New Hampshire’s primary date, with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum following suit.

As of now, Gingrich and Santorum will still participate in Tuesday’s event.

This isn’t the first time the Las Vegas debate has been an issue for Huntsman. CNN’s Washington bureau chief told the New York Times last month that unless Huntsman garnered at least 2 percent support in at least three of 17 accepted polls, he would not be allowed to participate. At the time, Huntsman had received 2 percent in only two of the polls. He has since reached the requirements with 4 percent in a Fox poll.