PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Thursday the "tyranny of the clock" is working against him in New Hampshire, an acknowledgement of his late entry into the race and his position far behind front-runner Mitt Romney in the state.
When a reporter asked him to describe his biggest challenge, the former Utah governor replied: "Time."
Huntsman, who skipped this week's Iowa caucuses to focus on New Hampshire, said he'd be in first place if he had enough time to cover every corner of the state. Huntsman entered the race in June.
"We've got the tyranny of the clock against us right now. And we're moving as quickly as we can," he said. "We got into this race late, but I'm very, very confident that our message combined with our grass-roots, on-the-ground effort is going to pay dividends."
Huntsman was reaching several corners of the state Thursday, spending the early part of the day along the seacoast before heading west to Newport. At a business luncheon in Portsmouth, he agreed with a voter's assessment of him as David to Romney's Goliath.
Huntsman said it was a fair analogy, but he pointed to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's near-win in Iowa as proof that running a grass-roots campaign can pay off.
"You can't Twitter your way to prosperity. You can't Facebook your way to prosperity. You have to be in the state. You have to be felt. You have to be seen," Huntsman said.
You also have to have money and Romney has plenty of that. Huntsman, meanwhile, last week had to match donations from supporters to raise $100,000 to begin airing his campaign's first TV commercial.
The voter, John Troiano, a 50-year-old financial planner, said he had been leaning toward Huntsman before seeing him in person. He said he was walking away as a committed supporter.
"He needs to get a lot of rocks in his slingshot, so count me as one of his rocks," Troiano said, referring to the Biblical story of David, who brings down the Goliath with a slingshot then kills the giant with his own sword.
Troiano said he most appreciated Huntsman's sincerity, a quality he said he found lacking in Romney.
Romney, Troiano said, has a very good business sense, "but he's not sincere. He always seems to change his opinion based on what people want to hear."
In a sign that Huntsman is looking ahead to South Carolina's primary on Jan. 21, Michele Bachmann's campaign manager in that state said he took a call from Huntsman's campaign on Wednesday, the day Bachmann announced her departure from the race.
Lee Bright, a South Carolina state senator, said Thursday that Huntsman's campaign wanted to arrange a personal phone call between Huntsman and Bright, but that it had yet to take place. Several campaigns are looking to woo Bachmann's supporters, though Bright said he intended to remain neutral for the time being.
Associated Press writer Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn., contributed to this report.