GREER, S.C.—Trailing in polls, Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman has started slapping at GOP rival Mitt Romney and his job-creation record as Massachusetts governor.
Huntsman, who has pledged to run a civil campaign, opened a two-day campaign trip to early voting South Carolina by urging Republican primary voters to compare his record as Utah governor with those of his opponents.
"Some people run from their record; I am running on my record," said Huntsman, who formally entered the race several weeks ago and trails Romney, the GOP front-runner, in many national and state polls.
Huntsman told voters at a packed barbecue restaurant here that Utah ranked No. 1 in creating jobs during his tenure, and he contrasted his record with Romney's though he didn't mention his rival by name.
"Utah led the way in the United States in terms of job creation. That compare it -- and contrast it -- with certain other states, like, we'll say Massachusetts -- that I'll just pull out randomly. Not first, but 47th," Huntsman said late Monday.
A day later, Huntsman announced that he had received endorsements from the family of a late South Carolina governor. Carroll Campbell's widow and two sons are supporting him.
Campbell was South Carolina's first two-term Republican governor and left office in 1995. He's credited with engineering GOP growth that turned in Republican dominance of the Palmetto State years later. Campbell died of a heart attack in 2005 at 65 after a four year struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
Jobs are a top voter issue in a sputtering economy, including in South Carolina, an early primary state that has had among the nation's highest jobless rates for nearly a decade.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Romney spent 25 years in business and understands how to create jobs and turn an economy around. "As governor he confronted an economy very similar to Obama's economy: high unemployment and no job creation. Under his leadership and economic reforms the unemployment rate went from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent and the state went from losing jobs to creating jobs," Saul said.
Huntsman said it's time to start comparing the candidates' records.
"We're going to get out and talk about our record and how it might compare and contrast with others. I think that's a perfectly legitimate thing to be doing at this point in the race," he said.