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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Less than a week before the New Hampshire primary election, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman speaks during a Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at PSNH in Manchester.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Less than a week before the New Hampshire primary election, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman speaks during a Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at PSNH in Manchester.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Less than a week before the New Hampshire primary election, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman speaks during a Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at PSNH in Manchester.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Less than a week before the New Hampshire primary election, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman speaks during a Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at PSNH in Manchester.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Less than a week before the New Hampshire primary election, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman speaks during a Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at PSNH in Manchester.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Less than a week before the New Hampshire primary election, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman speaks during a Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at PSNH in Manchester.


  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    A young girl snaps a photo of Sen. Rick Santorum after the crowd settled down from his arrival, Wednesday evening at the Rockingham County Nursing Home's Hilton Auditorium in Brentwood.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Presidential hopeful, Sen. Rick Santorum opens a town hall forum at the Rockingham County Nursing Home's Hilton Auditorium in Brentwood, Wednesday evening. After a close second place finish in the Iowa Caucus, Santorum's crowd brought the room to capacity.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Rick Santorum shakes hands with members of the audience at the Rockingham County Nursing Home's Hilton Auditorium, Wednesday evening, where he hosted a town hall meeting.
Thursday, January 5, 2012

Huntsman, Santorum take different paths in NH presidential primary campaign

BRENTWOOD – Barely 20 miles and a few hours apart, two very different campaign strategies were playing out just days before New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, riding the wave from a surprise surge that led him to a historically close second-place finish in Iowa, told nursing home residents in Brentwood on Wednesday night that Mitt Romney hasn’t won the nomination yet.

“Not a vote has been cast,” Santorum said referring to the former Massachusetts governor’s huge lead in the polls in New Hampshire. “You fight to be first. You have a responsibility that comes with that: to lead. Not to pay attention to what the polls say.

Earlier, in Manchester, Jon Huntsman, who abandoned the Iowa caucus in favor of the Granite State, spent more than an hour at PSNH headquarters in Manchester speaking to around 50 employees about the country’s financial and “trust deficit,” the importance of reducing dependence on foreign oil, pulling troops out of Afghanistan and more.

One thing Huntsman and Santorum have in common is they are both trailing Romney. Huntsman also mentioned Romney at his town hall meeting.

A President Romney is something the country cannot afford, Huntsman said.

“The establishment is going to tee-up Mitt Romney,” he said. “Mitt’s a decent guy. I respect him. But you know what? This country can’t afford a status quo president. This country needs change.”

Huntsman all but ignored the Iowa caucuses this week in favor of touring more of New Hampshire. In the fall, he relocated his campaign headquarters from Florida to Manchester and has held more than 150 events here, more than any other major candidate.

That attention may be starting to pay off as he tries to pull off a Santorum-like surge in the primary next week.

Instead of polling low, in single digits, like most of the campaign, Huntsman’s numbers have risen slowly in recent polls, reaching 11, 13 or even 15 percent, depending on the poll. That puts him either third or fourth, trailing Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul and roughly even with former House Speak Newt Gingrich.

“The challenge Huntsman has is he has bet the farm on New Hampshire. He’s depending on a good showing here in the Granite State to give him a boost heading into the other states,” said Wayne L’Esperance, a political analyst and professor of political science at New England College in Henniker.

Santorum is facing similar pressure even after rallying to challenge Romney in the Iowa caucus. Romney is dominating New Hampshire polls, and Santorum lacks money and organization in later voting states. He did not, for example, make the primary ballot in Virginia, and his evangelical base is less influential in other states than in Iowa.

New Hampshire is also more liberal than Iowa, much less interested in social issues than the Hawkeye State, and much more challenging to social conservatives. It’s also very familiar with Romney, who has a summer home here and governed next door. He leads by a better than 2-to-1 margin over Paul and nearly 3-to-1 over Gingrich.

Some political analysts contend the Iowa results are not as valid as the New Hampshire election because the caucuses draw far fewer voters who tend to come from the most conservative end of the Republican Party.

“The caucus does tend to screen out casual voters in a way the New Hampshire primary doesn’t,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Santorum kicked off his appearance Wednesday by dismissing that notion.

“They’re all Americans. They all have the same fundamental values that our Founding Fathers put in place,” he said. “That is what makes America, America. You believe here in New Hampshire exactly what they believe in Iowa, exactly what they believe in South Carolina.”

Santorum spent much of his time in Brentwood bashing Obama as opposed to his Republican opponents. He said the fundamental struggle is that America is great because its people believed in “self-restraint” and doing what they ought to do. Obama, he said, believes government must force the issue, which leads to more government and more regulations.

“He believes you are incapable of freedom. That you cannot provide for yourself,” Santorum said. “That’s because the president believes that you need him.”

L’Esperance said Santorum’s strong showing in Iowa will likely “count for something” in New Hampshire, be it money, attention or some votes, but probably not a marked improvement in the polls.

“It won’t be responsible for this huge vault,” he said. “I don’t expect him to vault into second place or first place position. It will have more meaning in South Carolina.”

New Hampshire’s vote is part of the Interstate 95 primary, a rapid-fire series of votes here on Jan. 10, in South Carolina on Jan. 21 and in Florida on Jan. 31.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.