“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.