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Huntsman to rivals: 'Welcome to New Hampshire'


LEBANON, N.H. -- In his final twenty four hours before the rest of the GOP pack descends upon his temporary home, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman has one thing to say to his incoming GOP rivals: "Welcome to New Hampshire."

While the rest of the field awaits Iowa's decision, Huntsman is hoping his fortunes will mirror what Rick Santorum has experienced Iowa.

"He's had good momentum in Iowa and that's a tribute to his grassroots work,” Huntsman said of Santorum last night. “We've done the same grassroots work here in New Hampshire."

“I feel a little surge, a little renaissance,” Huntsman added, speaking to more than 120 voters last night in Dover. Just a month ago, in the same venue, he attracted only 30 people in a small classroom.

It is true: things in New Hampshire have turned up ever-so-slightly for Huntsman. Like Santorum, Huntsman’s audiences have swelled to the low triple digits. In the latest Suffolk/7News New Hampshire poll, he has hopped to third, above Newt Gingrich, but behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

But with a week to go, is it too little too late?

Because he is appealing to a large group of undeclared voters in New Hampshire, it is hard to project exactly what will happen.

Huntsman routinely says he is looking for the support of Republicans, independents and even Democrats. But at the end of the day, the former ambassador to China knows time is running out, so he has deployed two new strategies he hopes will get him what he calls “a ticket out” to South Carolina.

That strategy involves sharpening attacks on Romney. With just seven days left, Huntsman is relatively aggressive, capitalizing on the “anyone but Mitt Romney” sentiment seen in some pockets of New Hampshire. Yesterday, he implored voters to question Romney as an “establishment” candidate.

He draws a contrast with the other Mormon, former governor in the race, saying it is "pretty simple."

"I can get elected," Huntsman told reporters at the Dartmouth Medical Center today. "People want to know your core and they want to make sure you have a  consistent predictable core. I haven't been on three sides of all the issues."

Huntsman keeps saying he does not think voters are looking for a Romney "coronation." 

“You can do what the establishment wants you to do,” Huntsman offered in in Dover last night, holding the microphone close.

“You’ve got a good candidate in Mitt Romney. He’s a good guy. I respect him. But you know what, if you have 47 members of Congress supporting you, as he just announced today, you think you’re going to be to do what needs to be done in terms of reforming Congress? No how, no way. You think if you’re the largest recipient of donations from Wall Street you’re going to be able to take care of the banking problem and address too big too fail?No how, no way.”

Words aside, Huntsman has also decided to inject more of his personal wealth into campaign in the ninth hour. In an email with his wife Mary Kaye to supporters three days ago, Huntsman promised to match all donations “dollar for dollar” to help get their own thirty-second advertisement on the New Hampshire airwaves. 

Why put in cash now? 

“To stimulate a little more giving over a short period of time,” he explains. As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $61,000 on their way to their $100,000 goal.

If the ad makes it on the air, it will be the fourth spot featuring Huntsman to go up here. Three pro-Huntsman ads from Our Destiny PAC, a super PAC working on his behalf, have gone up in New Hampshire over the past several months, though none have seemed to move his numbers in the polls.