July 4, 2011 -- The Fourth of July has to be a presidential candidate's dream come true. With huge parades, community barbecues and a plethora of patriotism, Independence Day is the perfect opportunity to mix and mingle with constituents in early caucus states.
This year GOP candidates are marching two by two through small towns in the first-in-the nation states of New Hampshire and Iowa. The average population of GOP candidates' Independence Day stops? About 10,000 people.
Both Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney were in Amherst, New Hampshire, population 12,000, Monday morning attending the same parade. The two exchanged handshakes and pleasantries before the parade began.
The Romney team marched at the front of the parade while the Huntsman crew brought up the rear. The order was first-come, first-served and Romney filed his paperwork first.
Asked about Romney being ahead in the parade, Huntsman, a former U.S. Ambassador to China, replied, "I guess we have more hands to shake."
And shake hands he did. Huntsman at times had to run to catch up to his supporters because he took so many detours to shake every hand offered to him. At one point, he ran up on a porch to greet parade watchers.
"I used to refer to [our campaign] as the margin of error candidate. I don't think we are anymore," Huntsman said.
A group of Ron Paul supporters held down a spot in the center of the parade, although the candidate himself did not attend.
The Amherst Fourth of July Parade has a politically star-studded history as previous presidential hopefuls George W. Bush, John Kerry, Elizabeth Dole and Gerald Ford all marched during their respective campaigns.
Huntsman arrived at the parade with his wife, Mary Kaye, and two youngest daughters, Gracie Mei and Asha. The family was greeted by about dozen supporters chanting "Jon 2012."
Romney was surrounded by about two dozen supporters on the parade route. The former Massachusetts Governor made an afternoon stop in Andover village green, and rounds out America's birthday with another parade in Laconia, New Hampshire.
Huntsman had four stops scheduled in New Hampshire Monday, more than any other candidate. After the morning parade, Huntsman lunched at a barbecue in Belmont before going on to Moultonborough and then Plymouth.
Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich were also parade twins, marching in Clear Lake, Iowa's Fourth of July parade.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum scheduled appearances at no fewer than three Independence Day parades in Iowa. Santorum started the morning in Urbandale at 10 a.m., headed over to Pella at 2:30 p.m. and rushed to Iowa Falls by 5:30.
Herman Cain is the only GOP presidential candidate who stuck to the big city for July Fourth. Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, spoke to the Independence Hall Tea Party in Philadelphia.
While Cain's schedule did not include any Independence Day parades, it did include the baseball field in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he was to throw out the first pitch at the Fischer Cat's baseball game this evening. Philadelphia, population 1.4 million, and Manchester, population 107,000, were the largest cities visited by GOP candidates on July Fourth.
Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty did not have any public events scheduled for Independence Day.