For Jon Huntsman, New Hampshire primary could be now or never

January 9, 2012

By Sandhya Somashekhar and Nia-Malika Henderson, The Washington Post

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Tuesday will be a day of reckoning for at least one of the Republican presidential hopefuls: Jon Huntsman, whose quirky and quietly rogue candidacy hinges entirely on a strong showing in the nation’s first primary.

Huntsman went for broke here, skipping Iowa and spending virtually the entire campaign in a state that seemed more receptive to his moderate views. For months, he has been trundling from town to town in New Hampshire wearing a silver belt buckle and cowboy boots, delivering mild-mannered critiques of the president and occasionally breaking into his fluent Chinese.

In the final sprint, Huntsman has gained some momentum and is aiming to draw votes from Mitt Romney, the front-runner and candidate with whom Huntsman shares the most ground ideologically.

In a debate Sunday, the former Utah governor drew applause when he chided Romney for criticizing his willingness to serve as ambassador to China under President Obama. “This nation is divided . . . because of attitudes like that,” Huntsman said.

He sounded the same theme a few hours later, when about 250 people packed into a Hampstead coffee shop to hear the Republican hopeful’s stump speech. “I put my country first,” he said. “Apparently, Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in putting country first.”

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