Jon Huntsman’s decision to skip the first New Hampshire presidential debate on Monday has Republicans in the state confused — and predicting that he’ll suffer politically for it.

“As a guy who has said publicly he’s going to skip Iowa, it seems like he’d want to be here for that debate,” said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman who met Huntsman at one of his early events in Durham. “It’s the first real debate and for a guy who seems to be all-in in New Hampshire.”

Cullen was one of a half-dozen local GOP players raising concerns about Huntsman’s absence from a debate that will feature both Tim Pawlenty and, for the first time, Mitt Romney.