It’s no secret that Jon Huntsman has ignored Iowa and focused his efforts on New Hampshire. If you have to put all your eggs in one basket, it makes sense to focus on the basket most likely to carry you. Why not Iowa? Well, Michele Bachmann has the home state advantage there, though since the debates and subsequent interview gaffes, she peaked early and has since fallen in popularity. Plus Iowa has plenty of evangelical voters likely to be reluctant to vote for a Mormon.
New Hampshire, on the other hand is a fiercely independent state. The citizenry has a habit of voting contrary to other states in New England. New Hampshire also has the peculiar habit of siding with the eventual winner. For example, New Hampshire picked George W. Bush in the 2000 election while the rest of New England picked Gore. To be fair, they also picked Kerry in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2008. However they previously sided with George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon.
But the key factor in Jon Huntsman’s strategy is that New Hampshire does not have a closed primary. That means anyone who does not have a declared party affiliation may vote in the primary. Given that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, this means that undeclared voters in the granite state are free to vote in the Republican primary. In fact, declared Democrats can unaffiliate temporarily in order to participate in the Republican primary. As a result of this independent streak, nearly 38% of New Hampshire voters are ‘undeclared’.
Now this could also work to the advantage of, say, Ron Paul; particularly if he fares well in the Iowa caucus. But Huntsman’s focus on New Hampshire voters is likely to pay off more than Ron Paul. Mostly because Huntsman is seen as the more reasonable candidate. He is much more moderate than Paul. Voters in New Hampshire seem to like that.
But what of Mitt Romney? He bought a house in New Hampshire. Doesn’t that give him a home team advantage? Sorry: you can’t fool New Hampshire voters. They know an empty suit when they see one.
Rick Santorum tried a similar shotgun approach in Iowa by campaigning in all 99 counties but he has met with less success than Huntsman in New Hampshire. Plus a caucus is a much different animal than an election depending on the circumstances. Consequently, many deem Nw Hampshire as a more relevant indicator of presidential viability than Iowa.
Huntsman has held over 100 events in the granite state and his message is starting to take hold with independents and the undeclared. Several endorsements have come his way from newspapers. One of them, The Valley News took a few shots at Romney and Gingrich;
“The former has raised the flip-flop to an art form, while the latter has done the same for hypocrisy,” it said. “We recommend [Huntsman], in the hopes that the cooler heads will prevail in New Hampshire and elsewhere.”
The latest polls have Huntsman in third behind Romney and Ron Paul but New Hampshire is anything but predictable. Even money says the Huntsman strategy could pay off. What if it does? Say Huntsman wins New Hampshire, does that bode well for the rest of the country? Probably not. The Mormon thing will never play well in southern states. Huntsman could do well in the Nevada caucus since he was Governor of neighboring Utah but that may not be enough to counter the Romney machine.
As mentioned previously, the January results will thin the Republican herd considerably. The remaining voters will have to pick a new horse. Whether Huntsman is that steed remains to be seen. If Paul takes Iowa this whole argument could be moot.
- Huntsman making a move in New Hampshire! (thehill.com)
- Huntsman success in race may rely on independents (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Can Jon Huntsman mount a breakthrough in New Hampshire? (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Why Ron Paul Will Win Iowa (538refugees.wordpress.com)
- Could Jon Huntsman Still Be the Republican Nominee? (forbes.com)
- Huntsman predicts N.H. win (politico.com)