Huntsman gets assist on TV in New Hampshire, but could be too little, too late

at 02:15 PM ET, 12/30/2011

Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign is getting a little help on the airwaves in New Hampshire, as the candidate confronts a make-or-break moment in the state’s Jan. 10 primary.

But is it enough?

A super PAC supporting the former Utah governor is going up with a new TV ad that attacks Mitt Romney for being a “chameleon” who will say anything to get elected.

It casts the presidential race as coming down to a contest between Huntsman and Romney.

“One state can stop the chameleon,” the ad says, flashing a picture of the former Massachusetts governor.

The Our Destiny PAC ad will start airing Tuesday for the final week of the primary and has $300,000 behind it – a decent-sized buy for the Granite State, but one that undoubtedly won’t be sufficient by itself. And there’s little indication so far that it will be supplemented in any major way.

With just 12 days until the primary and with so much at stake, Huntsman has had very little in the way of a presence on TV – his campaign has yet to air a TV ad – and $300,000 isn’t near what his opponents have been spending on the air in Iowa.

The question, then, is whether Huntsman has the money to make a run at winning New Hampshire.

We’ve seen in Iowa how Gingrich, despite a surge in polling and contributions in November, has struggled to compete with his opponents on the airwaves. Millions of dollars worth of attack ads that have been leveled against the former House speaker have gone largely unanswered thanks to Gingrich’s lack of cash, and the most recent polling shows Gingrich has paid a price, dropping into the lower-tier in polling in the Hawkeye State.

Huntsman hasn’t picked up any momentum in the polls, save for a slight uptick in New Hampshire; his third quarter report was a meager $4 million; and he had just $327,000 on hand as of Sept. 30.

The lack of an ad buy from Huntsman camp so far suggests airing anything in the way of a sustained TV ad campaign might require an investment from the candidate, who has personal wealth but hasn’t used much of it yet.

And given how far back in the polls he is — a CNN/Opinion Research poll this week put him in fourth place at 9 percent, 35 points behind Romney — Huntsman is confronted with a pretty grim cost-benefit analysis.

The super PAC has been helpful, running more than a million dollars worth of ads in November and going up with a smaller buy last week (for more details, see our “Mad Money” campaign ad tracker), but so far there’s no indication that it is flush with cash, either.

And unless it or Huntsman’s campaign can build on its current buy, it’s going to be tough for Huntsman to have much of an impact in a state where he will need to harness something in the way of momentum.

 
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