Huntsman’s Debate Pander

Jon Huntsman’s bold move to boycott the Nevada debate might not be so bold. First, as Reid Wilson points out, New Hampshire isn’t actually that close to switching up the primary.

Gardner has already set one firm date, the filing deadline. Candidates who want to run for president must file the appropriate papers with his office by close of business on Friday, October 28 (That is, two weeks from today).

Gardner can’t start printing any ballots until that process is complete. In fact, he probably can’t start printing ballots until the next business day, Monday, October 31. And thanks to a law Congress passed in 2009, he must allow at least 45 days to pass between the time he sends out absentee ballots and Election Day.

That makes Huntsman’s move look more like a newsy pander to New Hampshire. He needs one. Christian Heinze points out that Huntsman’s local offensive has not changed his basic problem in the state – most Republican voters don’t like him. Ever since he established himself as the straight-talking moderate choice, he’s had weak favorable ratings. He’s now at 24 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable, slightly weaker than Michele Bachmann – who skipped the state for a whole month and lied about why! Huntsman gets the state to himself for a day while Romney looks back at Iowa and Cain dithers on a book tour. And all Huntsman misses is, what, five minutes of debate time? When he wasn’t even getting mentioned in the debate wrap stories? A fine trade.

I know what you’re asking. “Hey, now that there’s a spare podium, can Gary Johnson get in?” Probably not. The Gary Johnson Rule for this debate was an average of 2 percent in at least 3 polls. Johnson hasn’t had that this month. “If Governor Johnson is allowed to participate in the debate,” says campaign manager Ron Neilson, “which he should be, he will be there. To us, it is not a matter of replacing anyone, unless the sponsors have some sort of quota of which we are not aware.”