It’s been a long lonely road for Jon Huntsman who has been winding is way through the Granite State mining votes while the rest of the GOP field is shoring up votes in Iowa before Tuesday’s caucuses there.
“New Hampshire, being the first primary state, provides that early punch that is unlike any other. … This sets the stage,” Mr. Huntsman told a gaggle of reporters after a campaign event at Deerfield Town Hall.
“Nothing against Iowa, but it’s a caucus and after a day or two it’s going to be forgotten and the eyes of the world are going to be on New Hampshire,” he said earlier when he addressed a crowd of 100 at a campaign event at Deerfield Town Hall.
An audience tinged with New England pride agreed.
“We’re the first primary state. Iowa is just a caucus,” said Fran Miller, 68, a retired special education teacher from Deerfield. “In a caucus, people get together and maybe there’s peer pressure going on. Voting is the real thing. You make up your mind yourself, and we take it seriously.”
Mr. Huntsman takes New Hampshire seriously, too. That’s why he’s devoted New Year’s Day – and the last few days of 2011, too – traversing the state attending house parties, county Republican committee hearings and campaign events.
His voice sounded worn as he began his standard stump speech in Deerfield – his third public event of the day -- but Mr. Huntsman seemed reinvigorated during the Q&A session.
One man wanted to know whether Mr. Huntsman plan for a balanced budget goes far enough. A revenue-neutral plan won’t pay down the deficit, he said.
Mr. Huntsman responded a plan has to do more than make fiscal sense; it has to be able to pass Congress. His plan calls for eliminating loopholes and reducing tax rates.
“You’ve got to be able to take to Congress the two, three or four things that you’re going to get done … and they can’t be pie-in-the-sky things that just don’t stand a chance, but rather ideas that you know you can get through Capitol Hill with a little leadership,” he said.
He ticked off items on his list that fit the bill: repealing the Dodd-Frank bill, repealing President Obama’s health care plan, making the country energy-independent and reforming the tax system.
Mostly, the former Utah governor stuck to his standard stump speech, calling for term limits and spending cuts, and touting his foreign policy experience as a former ambassador to China.
He took a swipe at Iowa frontrunner Mitt Romney, saying the former Massachusetts governor is too beholden to Congress and Wall Street to effectuate change.
“If you’re supported by half of Congress, you think you’re going to be able to bring about the kind of reform that’s needed in Congress these days? No way, no how. Do you think you’re going to be able to fix the banks that are ‘too big to fail’ if you’re the largest recipient of funds from Wall Street? No way, no how,” he said. “This nation does not need a status-quo president. We’re already in the tank.”
Mr. Huntsman urged Deerfield Republicans to prevent that.
“When New Hampshire speaks, everybody pays attention. Everybody listens,” he said. “You have the ability to change this nation’s direction by the vote that you cast.”