Jon Huntsman 2.0: Campaign Focus on New Hampshire

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr. debates during the Ronald Reagan Centennial GOP Presidential Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on September 7, 2011 in Simi Valley, Cali.
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Jon Huntsman may have had to compete with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry for the spotlight in Wednesday night's debate, but he distinguished himself as the moderate in the race who might best beat Obama when he challenged Perry in a memorable moment on climate change.

"When you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science," Huntsman said. "We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy. We've got to win voters."

He also was able to look like the adult in the room by trying to cut the arguing and bring the conversation back to job creation while hitting the two frontrunners—Romney and Perry—at the same time.

"I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the number one job creator in this country during my years of service. That was 5.9 percent when you were creating jobs at 4.9 percent. And to my good friend, Mitt, 47 just ain't going to cut it, my friend, not when you can be first," Huntsman said, referring to strategists—often Democrats—that rank job creation under Romney's time in Massachusetts at 47 out of the 50 states.

Throughout the debate, the former Utah governor and Obama administration ambassador to China, stressed his record specifically on the economy and foreign policy, and his time working for his father's chemical company before he got into politics.

"We've got to remember that to beat President Obama, we have to have somebody who's been in the private sector, understands the fragility of the free market system, has been a successful governor as it relates to job creation, and knows something about this world," Huntsman said.

Next Stop, New Hampshire

Huntsman will be in New Hampshire Sept. 13th through the 16th. He's skipping Iowa, so the Live Free or Die state is his make-or-break state.

His poll numbers are low—the last WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll was in July and had Huntsman's support at two percent while Mitt Romney led with 35 percent. But the poll also indicated that more than 90 percent of the granite state's likely Republican primary voters have not firmly made up their minds.

Last week Huntsman attended the Saint Anselm Institute of Politics "Politics and Eggs" event and Neil Levesque, the director of the Institute, said it was successful and believes the needle is starting to move for the campaign.

A source close to the campaign stresses they will make sure that—like Wednesday night—Huntsman talks about his record: job creation, health care, tax cuts, not to mention distinguishing himself from his rivals and lumping Romney and Perry together on the issues.

"There is enough time for New Hampshire voters to understand exactly who he is. They don't know anything about his pro-life, pro-growth, pro-gun record, that combined with a global understanding of the world and his record of a job creator is a big package that we have to present to voters in New Hampshire," the source close to the campaign told ABC News.

The Huntsman campaign has the largest paid staff of anyone in the first primary state -- about 20 people -- which is by some New Hampshire strategists' count the largest staff of any primary campaign ever. So what's their plan?

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