Jon Huntsman 2.0: Campaign Focus on New Hampshire

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Last week they replaced their state campaign manager with former Tim Pawlenty state campaign manager, Sarah Crawford Stewart. Stewart was John McCain's deputy campaign manager in 2008 and also helped lead McCain to victory in 2000 in the New Hampshire primary against George W. Bush.

Huntsman is also holding his first town hall in the state next week, courting voters in Henniker on Sept 13. He's taken questions from voters at retail stops and house parties, but this is his first town hall, something candidates must do if they want to win the state.

The campaign stresses that even savvy voters are not paying attention until after Labor Day, saying that's when the "real campaign season starts."

New Hampshire voters, says campaign spokesperson Michael Levoff, "are moderate, independent, even center right. Probably the most common thing people are upset with is what's going on in Washington and they want to select someone in the primary that can beat Obama in November," Levoff said.

According to Levoff, Huntsman will be on the ground "very often, more often than anywhere else." When he's not in the state, "expect part of his family or his wife will be here, they will switch off."

"We are going to cover every county, every town," Levoff added.

It's not just Huntsman and his family. "We have more people. Our field people go to community events and there are no representatives from another campaign, it's just us...We get to reach out to people exclusively," Levoff said.

Levoff chalks the large staff up to the "importance of the state for us. It is the front line of the Huntsman campaign" and says their lack of big endorsements in the state (they only have six state representatives on board) is because "a lot of the people we have been speaking to, they have always indicated they are waiting to the fall to make a determination."

A fall re-start may be the strategy, but political observers on the ground see missteps and a lack of a focused message.

Mike Dennehy, a longtime GOP strategist who also worked on McCain's successful 2008 primary win, but plans to remain unaffiliated this cycle, says, "Jon Huntsman is a bit of a mystery" because of what he sees as a shifting strategy and "a lack of a focused message."

"At this point Jon Huntsman has thoroughly confused the New Hampshire voter," Dennehy said. Dennehy added if he were running the campaign he would "slash the staff in half" and recognize there is a problem with the campaign.

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