Jon Huntsman riding wave of popularity from N.H. debate performance
Hempstead, N.H.- What a difference a debate makes.
After his buzz-worthy showing in Sunday morning’s NBC/Facebook debate, Jon M. Huntsman Jr. is suddenly Mr. Popular.<iframe style=”” frameborder=”0” width=”454” height=”255”marginwidth=”0” marginheight=”0”src=”http://specials.washingtonpost.com/mv/embed/?title=Jon%20Huntsman%20defends%20serving%20as%20ambassador%20to%20China&stillURL=http%3A//media.washingtonpost.com/media/images/2012/01/08/01082012-7v_480x270.jpg&flvURL=/media/2012/01/08/01082012-7v.m4v&width=454&height=255&autoStart=false&clickThru=&jsonURL=/media/meta/2012/01/08/01082012-7v.jsn”><p>Your Browser DoesNot Support IFrames.</p></iframe>
At the BeaneTown Coffee House, 250 people packed the place to see the former Utah governor, who was clad in a leather bomber jacket, flannel shirt and jeans. With only one full day of campaigning left before the state’s first-in-the-nation primary, Huntsman saw something he hadn’t seen here in a while—crowds and cameras.
Huntsman went toe-to-toe with Mitt Romney—who he has been chasing all year— explaining why he had served in the Obama administration, something for which Romney had criticized him.
It was a “market moving moment,” Huntsman said.
“All of the pundits love to say what it will look like on Tuesday but we are going to arrive Tuesday and find us a different reality,” Huntsman said, pressing his way through a thicket of reporters and supporters. “You are seeing a market mover right here, there’s no question, the numbers change with each passing hour, they are moving up and up and up. We will get back and find out that we are different than they were this morning.”
Huntsman has staked his entire campaign on New Hampshire, betting that his moderate tone and bipartisan background would appeal to this state’s voters.
“I put my country first, apparently Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in putting country first,” Huntsman said in explaining his decision to serve as ambassador to China for President Obama. “He’s got this bumper sticker that says...”Believe in America,”...How can you believe in America when you’re not willing to serve America, that’s just phony non-sense,” he said referring to Romney. “I say, I serve my country, I step up when my president asks, I always will, it’s part of my philosophy. I know that might be hard for Mitt Romney and some people to take. But most of America is with me. Because in the end they want this America to be brought together.”
With a good share of voters still undecided, Huntsman could have a shot at cutting into Romney’s double digit lead in polls; he is in a battle for third place with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
New Hampshire airwaves are being flooded with about $800,000 worth of ads from Huntsman’s superPAC and his campaign. And the candidate said that between now and Tuesday, he will “barnstorm this state as we have have been doing for months.”
“I feel a lot of energy on the street, we are moving in a direction that nobody would have predicted even a few short days ago,” Huntsman said. “You just watch it hour by hour.”
Surrounded by press, he jumped behind the wheel of an SUV and drove away.