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Jon Huntsman: Why I'm boycotting Nevada in favor of New Hampshire

By Jon Huntsman
Another View

October 20. 2011 9:42AM

TWO NIGHTS AGO I declined my invitation to the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, and opted instead to host a town hall in New Hampshire, where more than 200 voters and I engaged in a lively and detailed discussion on the economy, foreign affairs, energy, health care and other critical challenges.

I made the decision to boycott the Nevada debate, along with the Nevada caucuses, for a simple reason: Nevada's decision to move its caucuses up to January - thus threatening New Hampshire's first-in-thenation primary - cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. New Hampshire has long held a unique and powerful role in nominating presidential candidates - a responsibility the people of this state cherish and carry with pride.

At a time when so much of American politics has devolved into slogans and sideshow theatrics, as we've seen in recent debates, Granite Staters demand more.

They expect to meet candidates, not through a television ad, but a handshake. They do their homework, examine records, and ask probing questions and tough follow-ups.

They're not impressed with slick PR campaigns. They value authenticity and recognize pandering for what it is.

Retail politics in New Hampshire is more than just a tradition; it is a critical step in the democratic process and the vetting of presidential candidates, and its importance cannot be underestimated or undermined.

This state's preference for substance over style is precisely the reason my campaign has located its headquarters in Manchester and made competing in New Hampshire our top priority.

Over the last four months, I have met and interacted with voters at house parties, backyard barbecues and VFW halls across this great state. I have had the opportunity to discuss the serious problems facing our country, and the serious solutions that I am offering - solutions which cannot possibly be boiled down to 30-second sound bites.

As evidenced by recent upward movement in the polls, our campaign's message is beginning to resonate.

It is a message of principled leadership and bold reforms that are equal to the monumental challenges our nation faces.

While the economic and jobs plans of other candidates have been panned as 'remarkably vague' and 'surprisingly timid,' my plan has been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal and described as 'the most pro-growth proposal ever offered by a U.S. presidential candidate.'

The centerpiece is comprehensive reform of our convoluted and antiquated tax code. Rather than tinker with a broken system, my plan eliminates the special interest carve-outs, loopholes, deductions, and corporate welfare, while lowering rates across the board to create a tax code that is flatter, fairer, simpler and more conducive to growth.

I have offered regulatory reform, including the repeal of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, which perpetuates too-bigto- fail and does not protect taxpayers from future bailouts. I have offered detailed plans to cut spending and reduce America's cancerous debt, unshackle ourselves from foreign oil, and reform and strengthen entitlement programs.

As the only candidate with hands-on foreign policy experience, I also believe America has a generational opportunity to redefine its place in the world, and reclaim the mantle of global leadership. I have proposed detailed plans to revamp America's foreign policy for the 21st Century, which includes ending nationbuilding, engaging our allies and expanding our economic engagement with the world through free trade agreements. I'm not running for President to nibble around the edges with half-measures. I am running to transform America's economic foundation and give the American people the tools to compete in the years and decades ahead.

If we succeed, we can leave to our children and grandchildren a safer, more secure and more prosperous nation. That is our obligation to the next generation, and it's an obligation we must fulfill.

The question then becomes: which candidate is bestequipped, and which candidate will voters trust, to lead America toward that brighter future?

Like so many elections before, the answer to that question must begin right here in New Hampshire.

The fight to preserve New Hampshire's primary might be dismissed as just another political process story by those around the country who don't understand the importance of first-in-the-nation.

Unfortunately, most of my opponents played both sides of the coin by paying lip service to New Hampshire while attending the Nevada debate. While gaining more national media attention may have been the right political decision, leading often requires taking an inconvenient stand, and preserving New Hampshire's status deserves more than lip service. For me, that meant putting one of the most effective facets of our nation's democratic process above political ambition.

The stakes are simply too high next November for America to get it wrong.

Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah and ambassador to China, is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

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