CONCORD, N.H. – One day before spurning his rivals on a Nevada debate stage to prove his loyalty to the state that hosts the nation’s first presidential primary, Jon Huntsman stopped by the New Hampshire state capitol building on Monday to make his Granite State-centric strategy official.
After filing his forms to qualify for a slot on the state’s primary ballot and handing Secretary of State Bill Gardner a $1,000 check, the former Utah governor scrawled in permanent black marker, “In the Hunt—and only in N.H.!” on a sheet boasting autographs from his N.H. primary predecessors, including 2008 Republican nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
It represented the latest symbolic effort by Huntsman to prove his devotion to New Hampshire, where he is betting all of his political chips. Last week, Huntsman announced that he will not participate in the Las Vegas debate scheduled for Tuesday, going further than any of his rivals to protest Nevada’s efforts to crowd New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Instead, he will hold a town hall in New Hampshire that night.
In a press conference following his filing process Monday, Huntsman, accompanied by his wife Mary Kaye, called on two of his GOP rivals to join him in the boycott. Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Perry is participating.
“If you’re not with the people of New Hampshire, one then has to wonder where you are,” he told reporters in Gardner’s office. “And to upend the calendar at this point really does smack of politics to some degree … and gladly we received responses from almost all of the candidates, I think with the exception of Romney and Perry. Everyone ought to be expressing some level of outrage.”
Huntsman’s already seeing signs that his strategy is paying off. Before leaving the capitol building, he met briefly with New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, who thanked him for his stand against Nevada.
“I really do appreciate your support for the primary,” Lynch said. “Well, you know,” Huntsman answered, “It’s not lip service; it’s the real thing.”
Though Huntsman over the weekend posted a disappointing third-quarter campaign balance sheet—with $890,000 in debt and only $320,000 cash on hand—he said Monday that New Hampshire is the answer to that problem, too.
“You do well here in New Hampshire, you show that you’re moving forward in the polls, your fundraising numbers will pick up,” he said. “I’m not worried at all.”