Huntsman Bets on New Hampshire as Other States Try to Undermine It

Campaign has biggest staff in the state, but its primary could be less important this year

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New Hampshire appears to be Huntsman's last-ditch pitch for the nomination. Huntsman entered the race late, after much buzz about his manly-man taste in music and motorcycles and jean jackets, and impressed just 2 percent of Republican voters nationally. Last week, his campaign manager quit, and the new guy is revamping his message with stronger attacks on President Obama and frontrunner Mitt Romney. And to beat back the latter, Huntsman is on a hiring spree in New Hampshire, a critical early voting state for both candidates. But just as Huntsman is doing so, New Hampshire's importance is under assault by jealous states who want to steal some of its attention by moving their primaries earlier.

Huntsman is focusing on New Hampshire because he's unlikely to fare well in Iowa--where social conservatives won't find, say, his support for civil unions appealing. So, as the Associated Press' Steve Peoples reports, Huntsman has hired 21 people in New Hampshire, nearly triple any other campaign's staff in the state. After opening his campaign headquarters in Manchester this month, the campaign will open three more in the state in August, and three or four more after that in September. Jamie Burnett, who was Romney's state political director in 2008, tells Peoples "it would be the biggest paid operation for a Republican campaign in New Hampshire primary history."
So far, just four percent of New Hampshire residents say he's their favorite candidate, but, Politico's Alexander Burns writes, "that could change if he's willing to spend as lavishly on television as he is on personnel."
Yet New Hampshire could end up not being as important as Huntsman might hope. The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reports that several states are considering breaking the Republican Party's rules to move their voting dates up, while others are canceling their primaries to save money. The effect could help Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the latest will-he-or-won't-he Republican candidate, a position Huntsman once held. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will still hold the first three votes, but Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Missouri all want to vote earlier. And that would help Perry, Zeleny writes, because "he could face a hospitable run of primaries. The Texas primary on March 6, which comes with a large trove of delegates, will be followed by several other contests across the South." And with Republicans adopting a system for awarding delegates like the Democrats used in 2008, they're planning for a primary fight that could last till summer. Meanwhile, Politico's Jonathan Martin reports that Perry is wooing Republican officials in those early voting states, both traditional ones, like New Hampshire, and new ones, like Florida.
Separately, Romney is urging Utah to move its primary forward, too--a move that would help crush Huntsman, who was governor of the state but is far behind Romney in polls there.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.