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Huntsman hosts 100th NH event

Republican presidential candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks during a town hall style meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in Portsmouth, N.H. Republican presidential candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks during a town hall style meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
By Steve Peoples
Associated Press / November 15, 2011

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PORTSMOUTH, N.H.—Jon Huntsman is betting his entire presidential campaign on New Hampshire. And he's not trying to hide it.

"We are working this state like no one else," the former Utah governor told several dozen New Hampshire voters gathered in the Portsmouth Elks Lodge Tuesday night. "I don't care what the rest of the country thinks or feels; that's not important. I do care about what the people of New Hampshire feel."

The comments came during the first event in a three-day New Hampshire tour. Huntsman has struggled in the national polls, but he's been among the most active candidates on the ground in the Granite State, which will host the nation's first presidential primary in eight weeks.

Huntsman said the Tuesday night town hall is his 100th campaign event in New Hampshire since he joined the race. He joked that he's developed a local accent and lived on a steady diet of lobster rolls.

Huntsman moved his national headquarters here from Florida earlier in the fall, facing weak polling numbers and fundraising problems.

But he says he's been working harder in New Hampshire than any other candidate. Speaking to reporters after the town hall, he clarified that he didn't mean to insult voters in other states.

"Of course I care what people think in the rest of the country. Specific to the poll numbers is what I was referring to," he said. "I don't care too much about where the polls are in the rest of the country."

On the ground, there are signs that Huntsman is resonating with moderate Republicans and independents, who can vote in the New Hampshire primary.

"If he wants to break out of this pack, he's got to get the independent, progressive Republicans to support him," said Jameson French, a Portsmouth resident who attended the town hall and hasn't yet committed to a candidate. "He's got a chance, I think, to win that vote."