North Haverhill, N.H. — Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman told northern New Hampshire voters Saturday that a campaign button worn by one of his supporters says it all: “Sane People for Huntsman.”
The former Utah governor said voters have been entertained by a campaign season he compared to the reality show “Survivor,” but he’s counting on them now to settle down and get serious.
He said voters should be asking themselves “Who actually has the background, the temperament, the vision and the ability to bring America together during a time when we need it the most?”
Huntsman skipped the Iowa caucuses last week to focus on a strong showing in New Hampshire. He lags far behind front-runner Mitt Romney in state polls, though some have shown him moving into third place.
Steve Wheeler, a postal worker from Haverhill, said he had been leaning toward Romney but was reconsidering after seeing Huntsman. Wheeler said many Republicans are focused foremost on picking the most electable candidate, but he isn’t.
“I just think the strongest candidate is they guy who answers the questions right, and I think (Huntsman’s) done a good job of that today,” Wheeler said. He was among the many audience members who applauded loudly when Huntsman answered a question about how religion would inform his daily decision-making as president.
He pointed to the diverse backgrounds within his immediate family: “I was raised Mormon. My wife was raised Episcopalian. My kids have gone to Catholic schools. I have a Chinese daughter. I have an Indian daughter,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman drew a distinction between himself and rivals Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who have emphasized faith in their campaigns. Huntsman said he would be guided by his belief in God and called himself “a good Christian” but said beyond that, “the voters want you to get the work of the people done, and that’s what I’ll do.”
Months ago, Huntsman told his New Hampshire audiences he would win the primary. A week ago, he was casting it as a two-man race between himself and Romney. Asked if he still thought that was true Saturday, he said, “Well, we’ll see. We’ve got a couple of days left to go. With 24-48 hours ahead of the vote, I think people generally begin coalescing around the top tier candidates.”