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Jon Huntsman sees himself as David fighting Goliath

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman today agreed with a voter that he is a David fighting a Goliath, referring to his uphill battle with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who leads the polls in New Hampshire.

Huntsman, the former Utah governor, has been portraying himself as an underdog all week. At a meeting with businessmen today, John Troiano, a financial adviser from Hampton, told Huntsman, “I view you as David going up against Goliath. Goliath has the money, has the cronies…Goliath seems to get most of the media attention. How does David bring down Goliath?”

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“That’s a fair analogy,” Huntsman agreed.

Huntsman compared himself to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who came from behind to effectively tie Romney for victory in the Iowa caucuses. “He put in work on the ground proving that grassroots politicking actually means something,” Huntsman said. “The investment we’re making in New Hampshire is very much along those lines.”

Huntsman said that he will “move the market” through a strong showing in New Hampshire, which will allow him to fund-raise and strengthen his organization.

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Speaking to reporters, Huntsman would not say if his goal is to finish in the top two or top three. “Whatever you all say is our expected performance level, we have to exceed,” he said.

Huntsman, who has staked his campaign on a strong ground game in New Hampshire, is speaking at four public events today – an early morning Hampton rotary meeting, an employee town hall at Goss International in Durham, the business lunch, and a town hall meeting in Newport. He picked up the endorsement of the Eagle Times of Claremont. Some recent polls have shown him edging out former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to take third place in the state.

With the New Hampshire primary less than a week away, Huntsman is attracting larger crowds of voters and the media than he has in the past.

As more than 100 employees of Goss International, a print and publishing company, gathered to hear him speak, Huntsman answered questions on energy independence, illegal immigration, and even light bulbs. Asked about whether government should regulate whether people can buy incandescent light bulbs, Huntsman responded, “A consumer ought to be able to make that decision.”

Huntsman promised to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul, and to advocate for term limits and for a balanced budget amendment.

Talking about the need not to have banks that are too big to fail, Huntsman also took a dig at Romney. “We can’t afford to have a coronation for president,” Huntsman said. “We can’t afford to have the establishment stand up and say here’s our guy Mr. Romney of Massachusetts…You think you can make changes to Congress when you have half of Congress supporting you?...Guess again.”

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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