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Huntsman Getting More Attention In N.H.

This article is more than 11 years old.
Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks during a town hall in Pelham, N.H., Wednesday. (AP)
Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks during a town hall in Pelham, N.H., Wednesday. (AP)

With the Iowa caucuses just five days away, most of the Republican presidential candidates are in Iowa Thursday morning — except for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. He has New Hampshire pretty much to himself this week, and his crowds are getting bigger.

About 120 people turned out Wednesday night at the Town Hall in Pelham, a rural community on the border with Massachusetts. Some were curious Democrats disappointed with President Obama. Others were Republicans and independents not impressed with the other Republican candidates.

Republican Joe Byron likes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for one reason. "I think his experience, his business experience," he said.

Still, Byron is also considering Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Huntsman.

Unlike Paul and Romney, who are running national campaigns, Huntsman is counting on a good performance here to propel him to success in later primaries. But the fact that he does not have a nationwide campaign organization bothers some people in the New Hampshire crowd.

Huntsman has this answer for a man who asks how he can ramp up his campaign given that he couldn't even get on the ballot in Virginia.

"When you come out of New Hampshire with a head of steam, and then you move through South Carolina and then Florida, we're going to take those delegates anyway. You're going to be able to collect all those delegates down market. So I'm not too worried about that," Huntsman said. "This nation is going to be looking for a winner. Someone who is electable."

Huntsman is aware that he is competing for voters who are also taking a look at Paul and Romney.

"You can do what the establishment is telling you to do and go with the status quo candidate, Gov. Romney," Huntsman said. "You can go with Congressman Paul. He's not electable at the end of the day. Let's be real about it. Or you can go with someone who can go the distance."

Huntsman makes an impression with some of the voters in the room. One of them is Byron, who at the beginning of the evening liked Romney best. He said he wants to listen to Romney one more time, but was impressed with Huntsman.

"He's a great speaker. He showed leadership quality, I think, and he's not afraid to be his own person, so he's not following the crowd, so I was very impressed with that," Byron said.

Huntsman has his work cut out for him. Two weeks before the primary, most polls show him in fourth place here, behind Romney, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Paul.

Huntsman is stepping up the number of campaign appearances he makes here each day. Campaign aides expect bigger crowds as the primary approaches.

Even though Romney is way ahead in recent polls, he's not taking New Hampshire for granted. He's returning to New Hampshire Friday to make sure he hangs on to that lead.

This program aired on December 29, 2011.

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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