NH Republicans push candidates to stand with NH
CONCORD, N.H.—Republican presidential candidates could lose key New Hampshire endorsements and votes if they side with Nevada in the standoff over the nominating calendar, prominent New Hampshire GOP leaders warned on Wednesday.
“We’re all trying to be very clear that there are consequences to not helping us protect and preserve the first in the nation primary,” said Jennifer Horn, whose “We The People” group organized a news conference Wednesday featuring a coalition of Republican legislative leaders, tea party activists and key conservatives. They called on Nevada to push back its caucuses four days to Jan. 17, and asked Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Ron Paul to join other candidates in boycotting Nevada until that happens.
“We stand here today to make it very clear to our friends in Nevada, Florida and any other state that would challenge our position that we will not go quietly into the night,” Horn said. “New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary is here to stay and is entirely nonnegotiable.”
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who has the sole power to select the state’s primary date, said last week he is prepared to hold the contest in early December rather than squeeze New Hampshire between the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 and Nevada’s caucuses on Jan. 14. New Hampshire state law requires its primaries to be held at least seven days ahead of any similar contest.
At the news conference, several coalition members said they would think twice about supporting a candidate who won’t side with New Hampshire.
“I will take this issue very seriously,” said state Senate President Peter Bragdon. “I don’t necessarily believe in litmus tests but I can tell you the weight of this particular decision as to whether or not to support the New Hampshire primary will be heavy.”
Tea party activist Andrew Hemingway went further, accusing Romney of pushing Nevada to encroach on New Hampshire’s position and saying he wouldn’t support any candidate who campaigns in Nevada.
“I think that’s the only message they listen to: Take dollars and votes away from the candidates,” he said. “I think we should all be willing to stand up and say I’m not voting for a candidate that doesn’t respect the first in the nation primary. … It’s not an issue of this is a New Hampshire ego trip. This is a matter of democracy.”
He and others argue that New Hampshire’s status is important not just to the state but is in the nation’s best interest, because the state gives lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates a chance to be heard. They urged New Hampshire residents to sign an online petition and to call candidates to urge them to join the boycott.
The three Republican members of the New Hampshire congressional delegation — Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta — also issued a statement Wednesday supporting the boycott against Nevada and urging the western state to move its date. They did not indicate whether the issue would affect any forthcoming endorsements, however.
Members of the Nevada GOP are voting on the matter at a central committee meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday, but it’s unclear whether the party will stick with the Jan. 14 date. Some party members want the date moved to Jan. 17 to make New Hampshire happy. Others want to move the contest to Feb. 4 to comply with national committee rules and avoid losing any delegates during the national Republican convention in Tampa next year.