AMHERST, N.H. — Walk before you run. Or, if you're a presidential hopeful in New Hampshire, march while you run.
In a state where presidential politics is as much a part of the 4th of July as fireworks and barbecues, Republicans seeking their party's nomination were well represented across the state Monday.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman both marched in the Amherst parade Monday morning, along with supporters of Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum.
Though Romney was wearing running shoes, Huntsman kept up a quicker pace, sprinting back and forth across the parade route to greet voters, often with his two young daughters scrambling to keep up.
"Get some stickers," he told his staff when he stopped to buy some lemonade from two young girls wearing Romney stickers.
"Aside from the politicking and the handshaking and the enthusiasm that our campaign is determined to generate in this state, we're going to reflect on what it means to be an American," Huntsman told reporters. "To share inalienable rights, to share our Constitutional privileges."
The two former governors crossed paths just briefly as the parade began, exchanging pleasantries before taking their assigned spots in the lineup. Romney's campaign was first, with the only float sponsored by a candidate — a large, three-dimensional model of the New Hampshire state seal featuring a warship built in Portsmouth in 1776.
As the parade wound through the village, Romney led his supporters in a song his father used when he ran for president in 1968, beginning, "Hooray for Romney! Hooray for Romney! Someone in the crowd shout Hooray for Romney!"
None of the onlookers took him up on it, but they at least knew who he was. Several parade watchers remarked "Jon who?" when hearing Huntsman's team shout "Jon 20-12! Jon 20-12!"
Bob Burke, 50, of Amherst, had heard of Huntsman and counts himself a fan.1 comment on this story
"I like his energy," he said. "And the fact that he showed up makes a big difference."
Further along the route, fellow Amherst resident Robert Rendall, 57, shouted out to Romney as he passed, asking him to protect American jobs and stop outsourcing them overseas. A two-time Romney supporter, Rendall said he appreciated getting to see the candidates participate in the parade every four years.
"It really gets down to the grass roots," he said.
Romney had later stops planned at 4th of July festivities in Andover and Laconia, while Huntsman was headed to Belmont, Moultonborough and Plymouth. And though he skipped the parades, businessman and GOP hopeful Herman Cain also was in New Hampshire for the holiday, throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in Manchester.