Las Vegas

While seven of the leading candidates are meeting tonight here for the tenth national Republican primary debate, Jon Huntsman will be campaigning in New Hampshire. “We’re going to do things here the old fashioned way—bring folks together for a traditional town hall meeting,” Huntsman tells me in a phone interview. Tonight he plans to talk “about the issues, and then [hold] a Q and A New Hampshire-style. But people want to talk about how they are being blocked of the first-primary status.”

The status of the first primary has led Huntsman to boycott the Nevada caucus, in an attempt to stand with voters in New Hampshire. With the Iowa caucus now scheduled for January 3, and with the Nevada caucus on January 14, New Hampshire is believed to be left with a primary to be held January 10, which would not give it the one week buffer between election events that the state’s law mandates. Huntsman is the only candidate so far to take such a drastic stance, boycotting in order to show solidarity with the first primary state. As for tonight, Huntsman said, “If you’re going to boycott the caucus, you might as well boycott the debate.”

“A strong showing in New Hampshire, which we’re going to do, always changes the market downstream,” Huntsman said. “[John] McCain came in here [in 2008]…and he was down in South Carolina…which he overcame in just a few days. So the markets, downstream, they correct themselves based upon this early primary state and with a strong performance here.”

Huntsman was quick to bat down rumors that he might not have even qualified for tonight’s CNN debate. “That was the discussion a month ago,” Huntsman said. “We have since polled 3, 4, 5 percent in national polls—I don’t know what the aggregate sum was—but we met the threshold.”

As for the rumors in Washington that Huntsman is no longer paying staff members because of financial difficulty, the former Utah governor batted those down, as well. “That’s news to me,” Huntsman said. “We’re certainly paying staffers who are with us here in New Hampshire, and those who have moved here to help fortify the team from Florida.”

“Sounds like somebody’s spreading that stuff out there,” Huntsman said of the rumors that would suggest a dying campaign.

In fact, Huntsman claimed, fundraising has improved—and so have his poll numbers in New Hampshire.

“Our fundraising is up 250 percent since the numbers started to rise here in New Hampshire…we went to 10 percent in one of the recent polls,” Huntsman said. “And I think that’s how the story line will be written from here. If we continue to do well in the polls, financial support will follow.”

Huntsman hit 10 percent in a September 22 Suffolk University poll of New Hampshire primary voters. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Huntsman is in fourth place in New Hampshire, receiving 5.6 percent of the vote.

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