HAMPSTEAD NH—Over the past week, Jon Huntsman has said he needs a “market moving event” to perform well in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Today might have been his exactly what he was hoping for.
Throughout the day, the self-ascribed underdog Huntsman has turned an attack by Mitt Romney into an opportunities to hit back, expressing exactly how he feels about the front-runner.
At this morning’s Meet the Press/Facebook debate, Huntsman opened with a reference to an attack from Romney at another GOP debate last night, in which the former Massachusetts governor criticized Huntsman for
serving as Obama’s ambassador to China.
"I was criticized last night by Gov. Romney for putting my country first," Huntsman said this morning on the debate stage in Concord. "He criticized me, while he was out raising money, for serving my country in China, like my two sons who are in the United States Navy … I will always put my country first. I think that's important.”
Later this afternoon, at a coffee shop miles away from the stage, Huntsman was asked if he felt that he “found his voice.”
Clad in his signature bomber jacket emblazoned with “Governor Huntsman” and an American flag, Huntsman did not politely steer away from attacking his rival as he is wont to do. For once, he capitalized on the attack and fired back.
“Let's just be honest about it. I put my country first. Apparently, Mitt Romney doesn't believe in putting country first,” Huntsman told
reporters. “He's got this bumper sticker that says ‘believe in America.’ How can you believe in America when you're not willing to
serve America? That's just phony nonsense.”
Referring to Romney’s ubiquitous blue bumper stickers and signs that far outnumber his red counterparts along New Hampshire roads, Huntsman explained a position he and his wife Mary Kaye have articulated ad nauseam at more than 160 public events across the state.
“I say I served my country, I step up when my president asked and I always will, its part of my philosophy. I know it may be hard for Mitt Romney and some people to take, but most of America is with me because in the end they want this America to be working together.”
With just over 36 hours hours to go until voting begins in the first-in-nation primary, Huntsman declared he will continue to make his case to voters until the final hour. He has told reporters he doesn’t have to come in first, but only needs to “beat market expectations.” With polls ticking up for him in recent days, Huntsman is optimistic that his decision to focus his entire campaign in the Granite State will propel him to the next stop, South Carolina.
"We're going to barnstorm this state as we have been doing for months, more so than any other candidate," Huntsman said. "We're going to remind people that the underdog is out there, the underdog that can change this country. But in order for the underdog to perform at the top, we need the help of the people."