Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday refused to answer questions about his campaign's alleged attempts to influence the primary calendar lineup for his benefit.
Romney's visit to South Carolina comes a day after Nevada Republicans announced moving up their caucuses to Jan. 14, 2012, which could be a boost for the former governor of Massachusetts, who is favored to win the Silver State and which would help offset a potential loss in South Carolina a week later.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported that Romney's campaign was "pushing" officials in Nevada to advance into January.
"Romney's people were pushing for us to move into January so that he could get some momentum and have a rising tide going into Florida," former Nevada governor and state party official Bob List said in the Review-Journal report.
But despite the Romney campaign’s efforts, Nevada came to its decision independently, List told CNN by phone on Thursday.
The Review-Journal report nonetheless prompted GOP presidential contender and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum to rebuke Romney's campaign for allegedly "pushing a state to break the rules for his campaign's benefit." He was referring to Nevada bucking national party rules and facing penalties for moving its caucuses to January.
"Trying to bully states so they'll tailor the election calendar to favor your campaign won't help his cause much," Santorum said in a statement.
After delivering a speech aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, Romney was asked repeatedly for comment on the Nevada caucus date change and his campaign's involvement. Romney refused to acknowledge the few questions that were asked at close range as he disembarked the aircraft carrier.
This may be the second time that Romney officials have tried to influence a state's presidential primary date to benefit the two-time presidential candidate. In June, the Salt Lake Tribune published a story about Romney advisers trying to move up Utah's primary to give it a more prominent role in the nomination process.
CNN on Thursday asked List to specify who from Romney's campaign was trying to influence the caucus date decision. List did not provide names, but said he was referring to people based in Nevada, such as "his volunteers, his workers, his supporters, who were eager to go ahead of South Carolina and Florida."
List serves as Nevada's GOP national committeeman and was on the 10-person executive committee that voted 9-to-1 in favor of a January caucus date to retain Nevada's influence as one of the first four nominating states.
He said the Romney camp was one of many factions in the state that weighed in on the debate and added that it did not play a roll in the decision-making process.
"It coincided with what they would love to have happen, but that was a coincidence," List said.