New Hampshire Republicans intensified calls yesterday for presidential candidate Mitt Romney to boycott the caucuses in Nevada, a move that could imperil his campaign’s strategy for early nominating contests.
The former Massachusetts governor, who has a summer home in New Hampshire and is the overwhelming favorite in polls there, is eager not to alienate Granite State voters but has not indicated any interest in joining a candidates’ boycott after Nevada pushed its caucus date to Jan. 14. That early date complicated New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status, GOP officials there say.
House Speaker William O’Brien warned Romney not to take New Hampshire voters for granted, adding that his support could deflate “if he doesn’t get on the right side of this issue.’’
Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said if Nevada does not change its date to Jan. 17 or later, New Hampshire could be forced to hold its primary Dec. 6 or 13. By state law, New Hampshire is required to set its date a week before any similar contest, and the primary is traditionally held on a Tuesday. The first Tuesday when New Hampshire residents could vote if Nevada doesn’t change its date would be Jan. 3. But Iowa scheduled its lead presidential caucuses that day.
Republican candidates Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain say they will boycott the Nevada caucuses unless the early date is changed. Romney, Governor Rick Perry of Texas and US Representative Ron Paul of Texas have not joined the effort. Huntsman also boycotted last night’s debate in Nevada, campaigning instead in New Hampshire.
O’Brien and other boycott supporters have pounced on a statement by Robert List, Nevada’s former governor, who told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that the Romney campaign pushed for Nevada to move from February to January, so Romney could benefit from momentum he expects to get by winning the New Hampshire primary.
In an editorial yesterday, the conservative Union Leader editorial board noted that statement and wrote, “Romney is willing to sacrifice an institution beneficial to the republic for his own political advantage.’’
Romney raised the dispute in a conference call with New Hampshire supporters yesterday, but did not mention the boycott or the Nevada allegations, which his campaign has neither confirmed nor denied. Rather, he stuck to flattering statements about the New Hampshire primary.
“I’ve proudly campaigned in New Hampshire over the past several months in the very best spirit of the state’s time-honored tradition, which I respect and admire,’’ Romney said.
Romney called for a quick resolution of the dispute that recognizes New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status.
The boycott effort is gaining momentum in New Hampshire with an online petition, www.boycottnevada.org, gathering signatures. The petition cites statements by Senate President Peter Bragdon and O’Brien, both boycott supporters.
Even some Romney supporters are pressuring the former Massachusetts governor. House majority leader D.J. Bettencourt has called on Romney, Perry, and Paul to support the boycott.
Kevin Smith, executive director of the conservative advocacy group Cornerstone Action, also urged the candidates to boycott Nevada. “Because he’s the front-runner, kind of an adopted son of New Hampshire, I do get the sense he’s getting the most flak on it,’’ Smith said.
Nevada Republicans said yesterday they will vote on reconsidering the date Saturday. - SHIRA SCHOENBERG
House Ethics Committee to move on Jackson inquiry
WASHINGTON - The House Ethics Committee said yesterday that it would move ahead with an investigation of whether Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. tried to buy Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.
Chairman Jo Bonner, Republican of Alabama, and ranking Democrat Linda Sanchez of California said the panel voted Oct. 13 to end its temporary deferral of the case that had been requested by the Justice Department. The department has withdrawn its request.
Jackson, and Illinois Democrat, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with anything.
While the future course of the investigation is not clear, the committee has looked at whether Jackson, or someone acting on his behalf, offered to raise funds for then-Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for an appointment to the Senate seat.
The committee previously revealed that the investigation included allegations that Jackson improperly used his staff to mount a public campaign to secure the seat.
Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, is in his ninth term. He was elected in 2010 with 81 percent of the vote.
Blagojevich, who won two terms as Illinois governor, was convicted in June of a wide range of corruption charges, including trying to sell the Senate seat.
Jackson has acknowledged he was “Senate Candidate A’’ in the Blagojevich criminal complaint, one of several candidates whom authorities say the former governor considered for the seat. - ASSOCIATED PRESS
Senate blocks Obama bid to limit potatoes at schools
The Senate has voted to block an Obama administration proposal that would limit potatoes in school lunches.
The Agriculture Department proposal is aimed at reducing the amount of French fries on school lunch lines. It would limit schools to two servings a week of potatoes and other starchy vegetables.
The Senate voted yesterday to accept an amendment by Republican Senator Susan M. Collins that would block USDA from putting any limits on serving potatoes or other vegetables in school lunches. Collins is from Maine, a potato-growing state.
Potato advocates say critics should focus on the preparation of potatoes, which can be a source of fiber and potassium. Health advocates and government officials say children get enough potatoes already and should have more diversity in their diets. - ASSOCIATED PRESS