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Jon Huntsman deflects skepticism in New Hampshire

Cheryl Senter/associated press

Jon Huntsman greeted James Eakin at the Rotary Club in Laconia, N.H. He has focused more on the state than on Iowa.

LACONIA, N.H. - The center of the GOP political universe right now may be Iowa, but Jon Huntsman insists his own marathon orbit around New Hampshire will boost his candidacy.

But the former Utah governor has been facing a fair amount of skepticism this week.

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“There’s a rumor you’re considering an independent run if you don’t get the nomination,’’ a voter asked at a Rotary lunch yesterday. “Are you willing to pledge you will not run as a third party candidate?’’

“I’ve only answered that one at least 150 times,’’ Huntsman responded. “I’m running as a Republican, I’ve always been a Republican.’’

What about the failure of his campaign to secure a place on the Virginia ballot, asked two voters in as many days.

“When you come out of New Hampshire with a head of steam, move through South Carolina and Florida, you’ll collect all the delegates anyway,’’ Huntsman said at a town meeting in Pelham on Wednesday.

“We didn’t try’’ to make the Virginia ballot, Huntsman told the Rotarians.

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Then, there’s the question that’s plagued Huntsman throughout the race, this time from Liam McCarthy, a college student from Bow, N.H. “What skill separates you from the current front-runner, Mitt Romney?’’ McCarthy asked.

“I’d have to say having a predictable core,’’ Huntsman said, echoing his past criticism of the former Massachusetts governor. “I’m not going to . . . find myself on three sides of every issue.’’

As the rest of the candidates compete for air time and votes in Iowa, Huntsman has been traveling across New Hampshire with family members.

Yesterday, he held his 130th public event in New Hampshire. He told the Associated Press he would consider dropping out if he does not place at least third in the state.

In his continuous pitches, he urges voters to upend established wisdom. He talks about electability, reforming the tax code, and increasing manufacturing. He shakes every hand in every room.

“Are you going to be voting?’’ Huntsman asked Ethan Melonas, 18, a worker at Page Belting, a leather plant in Boscawen.

“I don’t know yet,’’ Melonas shrugged. Huntsman shook his hand. “If you do, I’d like your vote.’’

Shira Schoenberg

A star of Reaganomics lands in Gingrich camp

STORM LAKE, Iowa - For days, Newt Gingrich has been barnstorming Iowa, telling voters he is going to be endorsed by Art Laffer. The response? Silence.

Gingrich, assuming Iowans in pizza parlors and coffee shops are as fluent in Washington names as he is, doesn’t always explain that Laffer was an economic adviser to President Reagan and a prominent proponent of supply-side economics, the theory that some high tax rates actually lower government revenues because they stifle economic growth.

Yesterday, the man himself stepped forward to introduce Gingrich to about 120 voters in a hotel function room, in a moment the Gingrich campaign hopes will bolster the candidate’s economic credentials and give him a bit of the Reagan lustre. Laffer got a smattering of applause as he took the stage.

“You may know my role with Ronald Reagan,’’ he said. “Some people even attributed his tax cuts to me.’’

Laffer said he is backing Gingrich because he believes the former House speaker best understands “Reagan economics, Jack Kemp economics, the economics we did in the 1980s.’’

Gingrich said he was proud to accept the endorsement, adding: “My basic message for the next six days is simple: If you want jobs and economic growth, I know how to do it.’’

Michael Levenson

Positive Romney ad joins the din on Iowa airwaves

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled a positive television ad in Iowa yesterday.

The minutelong ad shows clips from Romney’s campaign announcement speech in June. Romney talks in the spot about the “spirit of enterprise’’ and focuses on the opportunities America has provided.

With five days until the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Romney appears to be building momentum.

The ad was one of at least five rolled out yesterday in the state, where voters face airwaves saturated with political attacks and boasts.

Associated Press

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