"I don't know, there were lots of generalities," said Linda Teagan, a retired lawyer from North Conway. "They all say where we need to end up — the question is how they get there. He's new. Hopefully next time he'll say I'm going to get rid of A, B, C and D."
Comparisons between Huntsman and Romney are inevitable — both are wealthy former governors who descend from prominent Mormon families. Rumors of rivalries have swirled for years.
Huntsman, 51, said there were no ill feelings.
"It's a lot of hyperbole; it sounds good, everybody loves drama," he said, speaking to reporters on a pier down the street from Romney's Wolfeboro home. "But there's not a whole lot of truth to it."
But Huntsman is not above a tweak at Romney's expense. Asked in a Hooksett gun shop what type of animals he hunts, he replied, slyly, "large varmints." Four years ago, Romney was mocked when he responded to a similar question with the words "small varmints."
Political analysts say Huntsman can avoid slashing Romney directly because other potential candidates will tear into him about his Massachusetts health care plan, which inspired the Obama federal plan detested by rank-and file Republicans.
"Any number of Republican conservatives can try to make their bones in this race by going after 'Romneycare,'" said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.
Still, Scala said Huntsman must get his name in front of voters, a task made more difficult by his absence from Monday's New Hampshire debate. (He will try to do just that on Tuesday, when he travels here after making his formal presidential announcement at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, favored for its Statue of Liberty backdrop).
Until recently, Huntsman has had something of a free ride, receiving flattering media coverage of his forays into the Granite State. But since his intentions have become clear, he has faced increased scrutiny.
Recent news reports have detailed how the Huntsman Corp., the company his father founded and where Huntsman once worked as a top executive, saw an increase in revenue in China when Huntsman was ambassador there and employs more people in Asia than in North America.
Such issues could concern voters who are worried about China's growing economy and the offshoring of jobs.
With the obstacles Huntsman faces, some argue that he is merely building his brand for a 2016 run. The former governor punted when asked this question, but observers said this year represents Huntsman's best and last chance, in part because of a deep bench of future GOP leaders.
"He's either got to be all in and make a serious play in 2012 or there's really no point," Scala said. "Huntsman will be very old news by (2016) unless he makes a strong, strong bid."
(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.
Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at www.latimes.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Paul wins straw poll; Huntsman runner up
New Orleans (AP) — Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has won the presidential straw poll at the Republican Leadership Conference.
The perennial libertarian candidate won 612 votes from the gathering that brings presidential candidates, party elders, grassroots activists and donors. Coming in second place was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who served three Republican administrations and then worked as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China.
Huntsman got 382 votes, but did not address the conference.
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