Winslow Townson, Associated Press
FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2011, file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman listens to veteran Peter Shonk of Dublin, N. H., after addressing the Peterborough and Jaffrey-Ringe Rotary meeting in Peterborough, N.H.

CONCORD, N.H. — Jon Huntsman Jr. said Monday he wouldn't be running for president had he not served as governor of Utah.

"I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for the good people of Utah," Huntsman told the Deseret News at a rally in the New Hampshire state capital.

Huntsman was one of the state's most popular governors, overwhelmingly elected to a second term in 2008. He resigned the office the following year after being named U.S. ambassador to China.

Utahns, Huntsman said, "taught me a whole lot about what it means to forge an agenda going forward. I learned a lot about leadership and I learned a lot about carrying the good will of the people.

"It all happened there in Utah, and I wouldn't be doing this if not for experience and I'm grateful."

But during a day of campaign appearances around the state, Jon Huntsman Jr. suggested he could use a little more support in Utah.

A Deseret News reporter tried to get him to be specific about the result he needed to see in Tuesday's primary election to stay in the presidential race.

"Listen," Huntsman said with a smile as reporters from other media outlets leaned in to hear his answer. "If we were to get the endorsement of the Deseret News, that would do it for us."

Unfortunately for the candidate, the newspaper, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, doesn't make political endorsements.

Huntsman earned the surge he's now seeing in the polls, his top adviser said.

"There's the hard work that he did throughout the summer and the fall," the adviser, John Weaver, said. "That's not sexy. That's not fun. It's kind of grinding it out so you have your organization in place."

Granite State voters appreciate Huntsman's efforts, Weaver said.

"Gov. Huntsman has been very respectful of the tradition here in New Hampshire. He's campaigning the New Hampshire way," Weaver said. "He's given the time to New Hampshire. He's learned from the voters. He's not just come into the state and pontificated."