By Lisa Riley-Roche
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Just a few months ago, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. promised New Hampshire voters would be rallying around his presidential campaign, his first stop on the way to the White House.
"Keep your eyes on New Hampshire," Huntsman told reporters during a visit to Salt Lake City last October. "We're going to do great … I like our position. More than that, I like the way we're connecting with the people of New Hampshire."
He had reason then to be optimistic about Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, having already made the state the centerpiece of his campaign, skipping last week's Iowa caucus vote and even moving his headquarters here from Florida.
But despite his dedication to the second state to vote in the 2012 race for the GOP presidential nomination, Huntsman appears to be slipping in the polls, after barely breaking into the double-digits.
Mitt Romney, the other candidate in the race with Utah ties, continues to hold a substantial lead hovering around 40 percent going into the primary after eking out an extremely narrow victory in Iowa.
There had been much speculation about whether the former U.S. ambassador to China could pull off a victory in New Hampshire. Huntsman himself said recently if he comes in lower than third place, he'll reevaluate his campaign.
Now, though, the question seems to be how much longer he'll be in the race.
"Honestly, I think his chances are slim and none," said Matthew Wilson, a religion and politics professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"He's clearly chosen to put all his eggs in the New Hampshire basket," Wilson said. "I suspect Huntsman will do no better than fourth. There's a good likelihood he'll end up dropping out."
Wilson said because New Hampshire voters "like to see themselves as kingmakers, as really being decisive in determining the nominee, it seems to me unlikely that New Hampshire is going to go rogue" and offer Huntsman any real hope of going forward....