Huntsman struggles to get campaign rolling in New Hampshire

By Maeve Reston

Los Angeles Times

Published: Saturday, Aug. 6 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

But several other McCain advisers rejected the parallel. They noted that as a Navy veteran, McCain had a built-in bloc of voters in military-heavy New Hampshire; he also had a national profile as a maverick and had roamed so many miles in the state that people joked he was running for governor.

A number of political operatives questioned the efficacy of having so many staffers in New Hampshire at this early juncture.

"At some point that has to start translating into movement on the ground and signs that (Huntsman) is building a volunteer organization," said Mike Dennehy, a New Hampshire-based consultant who was part of McCain's core team in 2000 and 2008. "If he doesn't start announcing some high-level supporters, county chairs and town chairs, then he very well may not be able to recover."

As Huntsman hustled through the state last week, from house parties to business tours to a stroll down Manchester's Elm Street with ice cream in hand, the visit was enough to get voters like Sue Winters looking at his resume. When she met him during his tour of a factory, Winters told the candidate she loved that he was "a rebel without a cause," and dropped out of high school before "getting back in the game."

"Look where he is now. ... It proves people can have second chances," she said.

On Elm Street he won the promise of votes from least three people — one was from Rhode Island, one was from Massachusetts, and one was a Democrat, making them unhelpful in the primary here. He banged out the Charlie Brown theme song on a keyboard at a downtown music store.

During a house party in Exeter, he told a crowded house that he'd win New Hampshire — in no small part because he could connect with all the state's motorcycle enthusiasts. In Rochester, Albertelli let Huntsman take a spin on his Harley. After thundering off for a brief escape from the campaign trail, a windblown Huntsman circled back into the driveway, where Albertelli complimented his handling of the bike.

But after the candidate pulled away in his SUV, Albertelli said those skills weren't going to make a bit of difference in his vote.

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