WASHINGTON New Hampshire voters will get their first glimpse of another potential GOP presidential contender in coming days when former ambassador Jon M. Huntsman Jr. sweeps through the crucial primary state.
It starts with a Thursday afternoon meet-and-greet in Hanover, then continues Friday with back-to-back house parties in Keene and Hancock, before he speaks at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Concord late in the day.
On Saturday, he delivers the commencement address at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, then participates in photo ops at a gun shop and a country store before speaking before the Windham County GOP.
On Sunday, Huntsman speaks to members of the Winnipesaukee GOP before heading to another VFW hall and more house parties Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.
Political observers say the former Utah governor and US ambassador to China is little known in New Hampshire, and will have to distinguish himself early as a contender. He will likely have to defend his decision to work for a Democratic administration, as well as some of his past positions, such as his support for civil unions between gays and lesbians and a cap and trade system for reining in greenhouse gases.
He also arrives in the state in the shadow of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is well known in New Hampshire and has a well-organized fundraising network. Both he and Romney are vying to become the first Mormon elected president.
Even before Huntsman launched his five-day tour, Democrats sought to compare him to Romney as a candidate likely to reverse positions on key issues, issuing a chart showing both men's positions on key issues over time.
"It's obvious that they're frightened of Governor Huntsman's strong conservative record," said Michael Levoff, a spokesman for HPAC, Huntsman's national committee.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.