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Santorum joins Nevada primary boycott; Paul still committed

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has pledged to end campaign activities and active participation in the Nevada caucuses if the state refuses to reschedule for a later date. Ron Paul‘s campaign manager says the Texas congressman won’t join the boycott and will “compete for delegates everywhere we think we can win them.”

Santorum joins former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in boycotting Nevada, which has set its caucus date for Jan. 14 and essentially blocked New Hampshire from holding a primary date during January 2012 due to a state law that requires NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner from placing his state’s contest seven days ahead of any other. On Friday morning, Huntsman upped his ante, saying that he would also refuse to participate in an upcoming presidential debate in Nevada.

The Iowa caucuses have tentatively been slated for Jan. 3, 2012, but an official determination is expected later this month following a vote of the Republican State Central Committee.

“I will gladly make the pledge, initiated by New Hampshire activists Speaker O’Brien and Senate President Bragdon for the presidential candidates to boycott the Nevada caucus,” Santorum said. “Nevada’s move has potentially forced the other early states to have primaries near Christmas — and that destroys the primary process. I firmly believe that we must protect New Hampshire, and other early primary states and the proven presidential primary process.

“To be clear, I will not campaign in Nevada nor participate in the Nevada caucus if it doesn’t move its primary date.”

Santorum said that such early contests in New Hampshire and Iowa “will reward those like Mitt Romney who prefer to rely on slick TV ads to hide their less-than-conservative records.” The Pennsylvania Republican also added his own prod to the Romney campaign, which has long been rumored to have encouraged Nevada’s move forward in the nomination process. The Romney campaign has remain silent about such charges.

Jesse Benton, campaign chairman for Texas Republican Paul, said that his candidate “embraces New Hampshire’s special place in American politics,” but that the Paul campaign won’t be joining the boycott.

“[T]his talk of boycotts doesn’t serve the electoral process any more than the states’ jockeying for position and primacy,” Benton said. “New Hampshire deserves its rightful place as the first primary in the nation, but we will fight to preserve that place without depriving Nevada or Iowa voters of their say in the 2012 nomination process.”

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