Shawn Steel, a longtime GOP fundraiser and member of the Republican National Committee, said that with the possible emergence of Perry, Huntsman has “maybe a month or two to break through the pack.”
“He’s not known by conservatives particularly, he’s not known by party officials, he’s not known by the grass roots,” Steel said. “He just seems to be a nice man.”
One Huntsman aide suggested that the candidate has a shorter window — until mid-August — to break out of the basement in polls. Another aide said the campaign has until October to engineer a turnaround. In a recent poll of Republican primary voters in South Carolina, for instance, not a single person selected Huntsman as the top choice. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows him with 3 percent of the vote among Republicans.
Huntsman has been more aggressive of late. At a recent stop in South Carolina, he compared his record of job creation in Utah with Romney’s record in Massachusetts. A top Huntsman aide took to Twitter on Friday to point out Romney’s change in position on signing pledges.
Huntsman will embark on what an aide called a “speech gantlet,” which will take him to New Hampshire, Washington and Florida, where his campaign headquarters is based. On the trip, Huntsman will deliver a retooled stump speech that includes sharper criticism of Obama, his aides said.
Huntsman will spend the first week of August in New Hampshire, then head to South Carolina, where he has been endorsed by former attorney general Henry McMaster, a prominent conservative, and the family of the late governor Carroll Campbell Jr.
Aides said the next few weeks will bring a steady focus on Huntsman’s conservative record — a handbill making the rounds in New Hampshire mentions the word “conservative” three times.
But aides say he will also continue to court young and independent voters.
In marketing Huntsman, aides have clearly taken a page from the Obama 2008 playbook, betting that Huntsman can attract young party members. The Web site makes reference to “Generation H” and introduces Huntsman with the phrase “At Last,” also the title of the song the Obamas danced to at their first inaugural ball.
Huntsman’s biography, which has been packaged in a series of videos on the campaign Web site, highlights his love of street food and motocross.
“It’s going to take a certain touch to reach people who voted for Obama last time,” said Quinn, the South Carolina strategist. “Appealing to the base of the Republican Party is not the same thing as winning in November.”