NEWPORT, N.H. – Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman on Thursday won the endorsement of The Boston Globe, marking the second time Massachusetts' largest newspaper has snubbed its former governor, Mitt Romney, ahead of the New Hampshire primary.
"There's something happening in this state!" Huntsman said announcing the endorsement at a town hall meeting attended by about 250 people.
The former Utah governor, who skipped the Iowa caucuses to focus on New Hampshire, is counting on a strong finish in Tuesday's primary to stay in the GOP race. He acknowledged earlier Thursday that the "tyranny of the clock" is working against him given his late entry into the race and his position far behind the front-running Romney, but said he'd be in first place if he had enough time to cover every corner of the state.
After criticizing Romney as the "status quo" candidate every day for the last week, Huntsman added a new jab Thursday night, noting that Romney was campaigning in South Carolina instead of New Hampshire on Thursday and Friday.
"The people of New Hampshire will not be told for whom to vote," he said. "They want people to earn their vote, as opposed to sitting down in South Carolina, so certain of victory."
The Boston Globe, which has subscribers in southern New Hampshire, endorsed Sen. John McCain over Romney for the 2008 election. On Thursday, it said both Romney and Huntsman stand out as presidential, but where Romney has been cautious, Huntsman has been bold.
"Rather than merely sketch out policies, he articulates goals and ideals. The priorities he would set for the country, from leading the world in renewable energy to retooling education and immigration policies to help American high-tech industries, are farsighted," the Globe said.
The paper acknowledged that Romney may well win the nomination, but it said he is being pushed in "unwanted directions" along the way.
Earlier Thursday in Portsmouth, Huntsman with a voter's assessment of him as David to Romney's Goliath.
Huntsman 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," he said.
Money is a must too 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 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.
In a sign that Huntsman is looking ahead to South Carolina's primary on Jan. 21, Michele Bachmann's campaign chairman 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.