MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman rallied campaign volunteers Wednesday by saying he can smell success in New Hampshire — and by showing off his presidential campaign’s first television ad.
The ad features Huntsman declaring, “We are getting screwed as Americans.” The spot, which goes on to offer him as a strong leader, will be airing in New Hampshire ahead of the state’s Jan. 10 primary. The campaign said the ad buy is at least $100,000.
Previewing the ad at Huntsman’s Manchester headquarters, campaign manager Matt David said the nation’s first primary will help Huntsman exceed expectations here and in South Carolina and push him onward to Florida. David predicted Florida will be a turning point in Huntsman’s campaign.
Huntsman, who skipped the Iowa caucuses and is counting on a strong showing in New Hampshire to remain in the race, spent Wednesday joining sign-waving supporters in Concord and speaking to workers at several businesses. His audiences at both were more polite than enthusiastic, but Huntsman was buoyant when surrounded by his campaign volunteers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I can smell success,” he said, then added a new twist to his standard joke about a food item he considers a New Hampshire favorite. “I’m not going to say it smells like a lobster roll, but I can sense a little NH in it.”
Earlier in the day, Huntsman toured a company that makes firefighting suits, where he touted one of his key endorsements and dismissed front-runner Mitt Romney’s latest catch.
Joining Huntsman at Globe Manufacturing was former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who noticed the Romney signs dotting the roads and took issue with their slogan “Believe in America.”
“All Republican candidates, and even President Obama, believe in America,” said Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor. “The question is, who do we want to lead America? Who’s the principled leader we can trust?”
Though Huntsman was happy to tout Ridge’s endorsement, he told reporters that “nobody cares” about Sen. John McCain’s endorsement of Romney. Huntsman backed McCain’s 2008 presidential bid and campaigned for him in New Hampshire in 2007.
“I have great regard for Sen. McCain. I love the man. But it’s another example of the establishment piling on. And it seems the more the establishment piles on — (Bob) Dole, McCain, all the rest — nobody cares,” Huntsman said.
“None of the endorsements Romney’s picked up have meant a thing in terms of how people respond, because people are looking for a new generation of leadership,” he said.
Huntsman has been hoping to follow in the footsteps of McCain, who won the 2000 and 2008 New Hampshire primaries after skipping Iowa’s contest. He calls himself the underdog and insists that New Hampshire voters love underdogs.
“They always reward the candidate who’s in this state shaking hands, having the town hall meetings,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing for months and months.”
But he could end up more like Democrats Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman who both skipped Iowa in 2004 only to end up disappointed in New Hampshire, finishing a distant third and fifth, respectively.
Kevin Fortier, sales manager at Globe Manufacturing, said he was particularly taken with Huntsman’s promise to tackle tough issues, such as term limits for members of Congress, even if meant being a one-term president.
Huntsman said the main takeaway from Romney’s narrow win in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses was that Republican voters are deeply unsettled.
“That means there’s a whole lot of blue sky for the rest of us in the race,” he said.