After a long lonely spell in his bid for the Republican nomination, Jon Huntsman made his final appeal on Tuesday to voters in New Hampshire, where he has staked his hopes for a breakthrough win and a recent poll shows him with the potential to finish in the top three.
“Did you ever think you’d see this? When was the last time you heard ‘surge’ associated with ‘Huntsman?’ ” the candidate crowed at an elementary school in Manchester, which serves as a polling place.
A statewide poll by local television station WMUR and the University of New Hampshire showed Huntsman gaining 4 percentage points in recent days, tying for third place with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. In first place was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with 41 percent, and in second, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, 17 percent. But 56 percent of prospective voters in the survey said they had not yet made up their minds.
Given the media interest in Huntsman and his increasing crowd sizes, some pundits are saying a a second-place finish for the former Utah governor is possible.
After months of campaigning with a tiny contingent of aides and family members, Huntsman was mobbed by reporters and television crews at the polling place. A hundred or so people were there with signs for their respective candidates, but Huntsman’s supporters outnumbered them. Paul and Huntsman supporters got into chant-offs, and Paul’s supporters seemed to like the line: “Who’s Obama’s best boy? Jonny is, Jonny is!”
Huntsman walked up the blocked-off section of the sidewalk, shook hands with some voters, and chatted briefly with reporters. “We’ve given this state everything we’ve got,” the candidate said. The stop was the last of 170-odd public appearances that Huntsman has made in the first-in-the-nation primary state.