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Pro-Huntsman Ad Asks N.H. Voters: 'Why Haven't We Heard Of This Guy?'

A super PAC ad airing in New Hampshire over the Thanksgiving holiday promotes Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman as the "conservative ... who actually has a chance to win," but then poses the question: "Why haven't we heard of this guy?"

If you live in New Hampshire, the answer, arguably, is you haven't been paying attention.

Huntsman has essentially camped out in the state in recent months, which led to his shtick on NBC's Saturday Night Live last week lauding the glories of New Hampshire, down to "the affordable outlet malls in North Conway."

But, as New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers reports:

Huntsman didn't sound like he was joking during an earlier campaign stop, his 100th in the state.

"I don't care what the rest of the country thinks or feels, that's not important," [Huntsman told those at the campaign event.] '"I do care what the people of New Hampshire feel, because this is important."

A campaign where New Hampshire is all-important wasn't always the plan.

Huntsman, who served as the Obama administration's ambassador to China, originally based his campaign in Florida. Organizing in South Carolina was another early priority. But lack of traction in the polls, spotty fundraising and staff shakeups forced Huntsman to take a different approach: Move his entire campaign to New Hampshire, and go for broke in a state with a reputation for giving underdogs a shot.

The New York Times reports that Our Destiny PAC — which is airing the ad — is underwritten by Huntsman's billionaire father, Jon M. Huntsman Sr. It says the New Hampshire buy to play the ad from Thanksgiving through Sunday on the state's broadcast and cable stations cost an estimated $750,000.

Super PACs like Our Destiny PAC sprang in part from the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United campaign finance ruling. The groups can raise unlimited funds (even from candidates' relatives) but cannot coordinate their actions directly with candidates or parties.

Huntsman is polling in single digits in the state, well behind Mitt Romney, but also trailing Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Despite the ad's assertion that voters just need a chance to get to know Huntsman, New Hampshire Public Radio's Rogers reports that the candidate's issues run deeper than lack of name recognition.

University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala tells Rogers: "If you want like a milder, more bipartisan version of Mitt Romney, well, there's Jon Huntsman. But I think the dilemma right now is not a lot of Republicans — even New Hampshire Republicans — want that."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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