Yes, he is polling around 1 percent nationally. Yes, his campaign is almost $900K in debt. But when it comes to preserving the tradition of the nation’s first primary, Jon Huntsman has positioned himself at the front of the pack.
When the Huntsman campaign announced Thursday that the former governor would boycott the Nevada caucus if it threatened New Hampshire’s ‘first-in-the-nation’ status, five of the top seven GOP candidates were quick to follow suit.
Huntsman then took it one step further, announcing he would skip CNN’s Las Vegas debate entirely, instead hosting a Hopkinton, NH town hall. Huntsman’s campaign even tried to appeal to his GOP rivals, calling to join them in “avoiding typical hypocritical politics by paying lip service to New Hampshire, while campaigning in Nevada.”
As of now, Huntsman will be the only absent from the stage.
“This is a Vegas move,” Huntsman admitted Monday to CNN’s Piers Morgan. “But this is where you upend the traditional politics. I like where we’re going in New Hampshire. All the polls show we’re going up. We’re in low double digits. We want a steady, gradual, substantive rise, because that’s what the people of New Hampshire demand. And whoever makes it through the New Hampshire primary always bursts upon the political stage with viability.”
Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller is confident in the campaign’s strategy, telling ABC News: “New Hampshire has earned its traditional place as the first in the nation primary with an electorate that is uniquely engaged in the political process. Unlike Mitt Romney who has threatened New Hampshire by meddling in the calendar process encouraging other states to move up, Governor Huntsman is committed to New Hampshire maintaining this critical role.”
Huntsman has committed more than just support for Granite State tradition, relocating his campaign headquarters and most of his resources from Orlando, Florida to Manchester. Huntsman has hosted over 80 events in the state, and even took his campaign announcement on the road to tell Granite Staters face-to-face that he was running for president.
In forgoing Nevada, Huntsman is exposing weakness in the area which many expected him to thrive in. The former governor of Utah, who was beloved by Republicans and Democrats alike as manager of the state, has fallen to Mitt Romney both in local polling and finances. According to FEC filings, Romney raised over $658,000 in Utah while Huntsman raised $256,000.
On Monday, Huntsman became the first candidate to file in person for the New Hampshire primary ballot, signing his autograph along with a campaign catchphrase: “In the hunt-and only in N.H!”