The nine midnight primary voters in Dixville Notch, N.H. handed the rest of the state a small surprise – a tie between Mitt Romney and former U.S. China Ambassador Jon Huntsman.
They got two votes each. Every other candidate got one.
Is this tiny 12 a.m. vote, combined with growing crowds and inching poll numbers, a sign of a Huntsman surge?
Well, pundits say, it’s too early to tell. But not too early to talk about it.
Huntsman believes it. He told supporters at his rally last night, “Every stop along the way, I hear the same thing. Something is happening out there.”
And Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science for the University of New Hampshire, agrees that Huntsman is experiencing “something of a surge.” Scala also noted that New Hampshire allows Independents to vote in the GOP primary. As a result, he wonders whether Huntsman is in fact enjoying increasing support among more independents than die-hard Republicans.
“. . . so the question is, at the last minute with those late-breaking voters, those voters who are just tuning in and going to vote today, did they see what they liked from Jon Huntsman,” Scala told The Associated Press.
Huntsman bypassed the Iowa caucuses last week to focus his campaign efforts in New Hampshire. In the days leading into the primary, Huntsman has attempted to cut into Romney’s lead with attacks on his business experience with Bain Capital and his experience as a job creator.
Now it seems that his strategy has yielded some positive results.
Huntsman’s Monday night rally at Exeter Town Hall was more crowded than expected, according to various news accounts. The Hill reported supporters at one point began chanting “Join the Hunt” inside the packed municipal building.
Huntsman is raising expectations going into today’s vote, asserting last night: “I have no idea what it is going to mean tomorrow night. But I do know this: we’re going to surprise a whole lot of people in this country.”
Despite the attacks, Romney has remained on top of the national and local polls. Exiting a Manchester polling site Tuesday noon, Romney told reporters he feels “terrific” about his chances and hopes to double his Iowa lead.
Polling released from the Suffolk University and 7News shows Huntsman, also a former Utah governor, in third place among New Hampshire conservatives. Another local poll shows Huntsman tied with Iowa surge candidate Rick Santorum.