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  • John Huntsman pushed through the crowd to address his supporters after a third place finish in the NH Primary on Tuesday. Huntsman is expected to announce Monday that he will drop out of the race and throw his support behind former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.



    Kate Harper photo
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Jon Huntsman is surrounded by the media during a brief stop at the Webster Elementary School in Manchester Tuesday, January 10, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel>br>

    Jon Huntsman is mobbed at the Webster Elementary School in Manchester on Primary day, January 10, 2012
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Jon Huntsman makes time for last minute handshakes at the Webster Elementary School in Manchester Tuesday, January 10, 2012.
  • Manchester resident Spike Smith takes a photo from inside John Huntsman's Primary party Tuesday night.



    Photo by Kate Harper
  • The outside of the Black Brimmer bar in Manchester got a makeover courtesy of John Huntsman.



    Photo by Kate Harper
  • A supporter takes a photo from inside Huntsman HQ in Manchester.



    Photo by Kate Harper
  • John Huntsman addresses his supporters after a third place finish in the NH Primary Tuesday. Huntsman set his sights on South Carolina, telling the crowd at the Black Brimmer bar in Manchester, "I think we’re in the hunt. … We got it done."



    Kate Harper photo
  • John Huntsman addresses his supporters after a third place finish in the NH Primary Tuesday. Huntsman set his sights on South Carolina, telling the crowd at the Black Brimmer bar in Manchester, "I think we’re in the hunt. … We got it done."



    Kate Harper photo
  • John Huntsman addresses his supporters after a third place finish in the NH Primary Tuesday. Huntsman set his sights on South Carolina, telling the crowd at the Black Brimmer bar in Manchester, "I think we’re in the hunt. … We got it done."



    Kate Harper photo
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Huntsman supporters thrilled by third place, but is it enough?

MANCHESTER – Standing shoulder to shoulder at the Black Brimmer American Bar and Grill, supporters of presidential challenger Jon Huntsman didn’t blink an eye Tuesday night when word spread of Mitt Romney’s win in the 2012 New Hampshire primary.

Down by more than 30 points throughout much of the campaign, Huntsman supporters had no illusions of defeating Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and longtime GOP frontrunner.

Instead, heading into Tuesday’s election, they were looking for a strong second- or third-place finish to propel Huntsman forward as the presidential race advances.

As the results came in Tuesday, Huntsman trailed Romney and Ron Paul, with about 17 percent of the vote, well behind Paul’s tally but far ahead of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I think we’re in the hunt. … We got it done,” the former Utah governor said as he took the stage before a cheering crowd of hundreds.

“I think this will make him viable for the foreseeable future,” Kevin O’Neill, a Huntsman supporter from Merrimack, said as the results came in. “To be honest, if you had told me a few days ago he’d be in third, I would have been thrilled.”

A top-three finish seemed little more than a pipe dream earlier in the campaign as Huntsman struggled to draw voters’ attentions in the Granite State. The candidate had devoted his entire campaign to New Hampshire.

He held more than 170 public events in the state, more than any other candidate, and in the fall, he moved his campaign headquarters from Florida to Manchester.

Despite his efforts, however, Huntsman’s campaign failed to catch on as he struggled to break single digits in most state polls – until last week.

Huntsman was the only candidate to skip last week’s Iowa caucuses, remaining in New Hampshire while the other challengers fled to the Hawkeye State. According to Suffolk University’s daily tracking polls, he rose steadily throughout the week, reaching 16 percent, or third place, on Tuesday, primary day.

“All the time he put in here really started to pay off,” said Ron Jolin, a supporter from Chester. “People really started to notice all the work he put in. That’s what’s great about New Hampshire.”

Huntsman’s support was readily apparent earlier in the election day as hundreds of supporters gathered outside Webster Elementary School in Manchester, offering enthusiastic cheers of “Join the Hunt” that outlasted rival cheers from Romney’s camp.

Moving forward, Huntsman’s third-place finish may not be enough to propel him into the national spotlight. While 17 percent may have beaten expectations, it may not be enough to help him last beyond the next few primary states, said Dean Spiliotes, a political science professor at Southern New Hampshire University.

“I really think he needs something really surprising, a second-place win, to really get people’s attention,” Spioliotes predicted Tuesday afternoon. “Third place is still third place.”

Nevertheless, Huntsman and his supporters contended that the finish is strong enough to help Huntsman head south to the next primary state and beyond.

“I’d say third place is a ticket to ride. Hello, South Carolina,” Huntsman told the cheering audience.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com,