Still, Huntsman’s 17 percent support should prompt a fresh look at his candidacy, which has been overshadowed by the competition among former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum for support among voters motivated by such issues as abortion and gay marriage. Gingrich, Perry and Santorum each failed to draw 10 percent support in last night’s primary.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won with 39 percent, and Representative Ron Paul of Texas finished second with 23 percent.
“Every not-Romney candidate has gotten a look,” said Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist not affiliated with any campaign. “Jon Huntsman’s about to get his. What he does with his 10 minutes after New Hampshire is going to be the most important part of his campaign.”
Huntsman plans to spend the better part of the next 10 days in the Palmetto State and converting credibility gained from last night’s finish into donations for his campaign.
The victory could also give his allies a stronger pitch for wealthy supporters asked to write checks to Our Destiny PAC, an independent political action committee largely financed by his father, Jon Huntsman Sr.
‘Three Tickets Out’
“There are three tickets out of New Hampshire and we’ve got one of them,” Huntsman said as he was leaving his Manchester hotel last night.
He said he’d continue to press the same themes he’s sounded in New Hampshire: taking an anti-Wall Street message to South Carolina, stressing the imperative to tackle trust and economic deficits and putting a premium on Americans needing to come together “first and foremost.”
“They worked here, it will work there,” he said.
Huntsman, 51, skipped the Iowa caucuses to focus on New Hampshire, holding more than 170 public events in all 10 counties and in more than 100 towns since announcing his candidacy in June.
Touted Job Creation
The former Utah governor touted his economic credentials, calling himself the “most consistent conservative” and contrasted his job creation record with that of Romney. He told voters that Utah led the nation in job creation in the mid 2000s under his leadership, while Massachusetts was ranked 47th during Romney’s tenure.
Huntsman pledged to close the revolving door of lobbyists and lawmakers in Washington and embraced President Barack Obama’s Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, which called for a mix of revenue increases and spending cuts to lower the nation’s debt.
He also highlighted his unique foreign policy experience gained as an ambassador to Singapore under former President George H.W. Bush and most recently as Obama’s ambassador to China.
“When you see this nation abroad you tend to see it in bold colors,” he told supporters last night.