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Huntsman in the Hunt

Will his NH-centric campaign bear fruit as voters start to pay attention with a month to go?

“As the campaign enters its final month, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is holding on to a double digit lead over his nearest Republican rivals in New Hampshire."

"Republicans now think Romney has the best chance of defeating the Democratic nominee ..."

So wrote UNH pollster Andy Smith on Dec. 12, 2007.

We all know what occurred:  a trap door appeared under Romney in the form of the New Hampshire independent voter. Romney faded away and U.S. Sen. John McCain swooshed around the outside to win the 2008 New Hampshire Primary.

Will history repeat itself? And will the Republican playing the role of McCain Spoiler be someone other than Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul? Is Jon Huntsman the ultimate presidential understudy?

That's what some of Huntsman's New Hampshire supporters are saying. We've heard it before from state Sen. Nancy Stiles of Hampton and Rockingham County Commissioner Maureen Barrows of Exeter. (The fact that some Huntsmanians are former McCainiacs, like Peter Spaulding of Hopkinton, is tough symmetry to miss.)

I heard it again the other day from former state Rep. Jane Langley of Rye. In the grocery story, next to the salad bar, she nodded at me with a touch of confidence.

"He's the one," Langley said of the former U.S. ambassador and two-term Utah governor. "He's the alternative."

She was referring to Huntsman being the Anybody But Romney alternative, not just the Anybody But Obama alternative.

Yet, Huntsman still trails in the polls here, barely above the Huckabee line. He surged in some polls, including a bounce to 11 percent in a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, but that standing is still a third of Romney's support of likely GOP voters.

He aims to make inroads this weekend, starting tonight with a town hall meeting at Londonderry High School while his Republican rivals are at a televised debate in Iowa.

Sunday, Huntsman's schedule includes town hall meetings at noon in Plymouth, at 4 p.m. in Weare, and at 7 p.m. in Swanzey.

And Monday, Huntsman goes head-to-head with Newt Gingrich in the much ballyhooed College. What can the average voter expect?

As Langley put it in the grocery story, it's time for those undecideds to come in from the cold. It's time for the real comparison shopping.

Debby Burroughs December 10, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Voters in NH have such a unique opportunity to check the candidates very carefully over a period of time. We, who live outside NH, envy the position you're in to essentially choose the nominee or heavily influence that choice. I'm hoping you'll choose Huntsman so that I have a chance to vote for him down the road! He's a very good choice for this country.
Tony Schinella December 10, 2011 at 10:41 PM
One other thing that helped cream Romney in 2008: He got sucked into the vortex that is the Iowa Caucus … and he seems to be making the same mistake all over again. In 2008, thinking that he was in a good position to do well here, he shifted gears and started sinking a ton of resources into Iowa, thinking he could have a trifecta - Iowa, New Hampshire, then Nevada, and end it all early. This allowed McCain, who wasn't competing in Iowa, to spend all his time here, with Huckabee focusing almost all his time in Iowa. Slowly but surely, McCain's crowds became bigger and bigger, and Huckabee easily bested Romney in Iowa - at a fraction of the cost. Romney then limped back here but by then, it was too late. It was McCain Country. This time around, Romney has almost run a general election campaign, going all around the United States, not spending a ton of time all his time in any one place. However, I'm hearing from some people I know in Iowa and ones who watch Romney and they say that, once again, he’s starting a late ramp up of resources in Iowa, in an effort to quickly seal up the nomination with there, here, and elsewhere. It will be interesting to see what happens in a few short weeks. But I'm beginning to wonder if we're going to see a repeat of 2008.
Dianne Paquette December 11, 2011 at 03:21 PM
I had the opportunity of meeting Mr.Huntsman in Londonderry last night and I am very impressed. His ideas are fresh, his meaning is clear and you only have to look at his performance as Utah's governor to know that he will be a great president! I urge everyone to consider Mr.Huntsman as the next president.
RJ Lee December 11, 2011 at 04:10 PM
In a choice between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, I hope NH will recognize Huntsman's clear leadership and unwavering commitment to conservative principals. His record is proof and his 80+% second term approval ratings in Utah is nothing short of extraordinary. We need Mr. Huntsman to transform this nation with principled policy. He will go after the special interests who are screwing the people of the US.
Dianne Paquette December 11, 2011 at 04:15 PM
RJ, you are right on the money, Mr Huntsman is going to make an awesome president. I went last nite with an open mind and I am convinced that Mr. Huntsman can go against Obama, debate Obama clearly and win the election, he is our best chance at real change.

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