Dave Woodard, a political science professor at South Carolina's Clemson University, said Huntsman's connection to Obama definitely would be a turn-off to voters there.
"Good night, all they have to say over here is he's an appointment in the Obama administration," Woodard said. "They just can't abide him if he's ever done anything in the Obama administration. That's a kiss worse than death."
Although Romney was rejected in his 2008 bid for the presidency by some evangelical voters who don't consider Mormons fellow Christians, that hasn't seemed to be an issue this election.
Especially for Huntsman, who remains largely unknown to many voters.
"I don't think they know Jon Huntsman is from Utah or a Mormon or been an ambassador or anything," Woodard said. And once voters do find out more about him, he said it's his connection to Obama that will concern them, not his faith.
Scala said in New Hampshire, which has far fewer evangelical voters than Iowa, voters aren't comfortable focusing on religion.
"There's the New England attitude that your religion is your own business as long as it doesn't interfere with how you want to run the country," he said. "People don't like all that 'God talk' in New Hampshire."
It's not clear what the future holds for Huntsman should he not remain in the presidential race. Since leaving Beijing last year, he's purchased a family home in Washington, D.C., and an apartment in downtown Salt Lake City, which he has said will be his legal residence.
Many have long viewed him as a better candidate for the 2016 presidential race, should Obama win a second term in November.
Love said Huntsman has already positioned himself for the next presidential race.
"He might not have gotten the attention or the support of a certain amount of delegates or early voters, or the right-wing element of the Republican party," Love said. "But I would argue he's the favorite candidate of major national media. … if he doesn't continue, he walks out of this with his integrity intact and his reputation emboldened."
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: dnewspolitics
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