Jon Huntsman has faced his fair share of handicaps in the
Republican race for the White House. As a socially moderate candidate with
roots in the Mormon Church, the former Ambassador to China
has had to convince voters that he isn't just Diet Mitt. In his attempts to do
so, Huntsman has bet the farm on Tuesday's New Hampshire
primary -- a contest that has a track record of being kind to dark horse
moderates like John McCain in 2000.
But if social media is any indication, Huntsman's push to
take on Romney in New Hampshire before the cut throat South Carolina and
Florida primaries may be a case of "too little, too late." According to OhMyGov
Media Monitoring, Huntsman has gained a total of about 7,200 new fans on social media over the past two weeks. Compare that to Romney who has gained
more than ten times that number (76,000+), and it soon becomes clear that the
two candidates are not even in the same league when it comes to social capital.
This is to be expected, Romney has a campaign war chest that
rivals that of any candidate this side of George W. Bush circa 2004, whereas
Huntsman has had to fight for any recognition from the press or voters. What is
even more ominous for Huntsman is that he has struggled to grow even when compared
to his fellow GOP hopefuls aiming to take down Romney.
Over the same two week period (Dec. 24 - Jan. 6) Ron Paul -- a
candidate whose anti-government message resonates with a certain voter segment
in the home of "Live Free or Die" -- saw much more impressive growth than
Huntsman on Twitter and Facebook. Paul gained over 40,000 new Facebook fans and
34,000 Twitter followers during the period.
With culturally conservative voters
more likely to give their non-Romney vote to Rick Santorum or possibly Newt
Gingrich, Huntsman has to make a play for small-government Republicans who do
not make a high priority of "culture war" issues like abortion. In short,
Huntsman needs to poach wavering Paul and Romney supporters if he wants to make
any real noise in New Hampshire.
With Huntsman currently polling in fourth place in New
Hampshire, according to the Real Clear Politics
average, a big night on Tuesday is essential if he hopes to survive much longer
in this race. At this point in the contest, momentum is the name of the game;
Romney and Santorum have it coming off of their impressive Iowa Caucus
performances. And while Paul is unlikely to be the Republican standard bearer
this fall, he does have a base of support that can be counted on to produce a
relatively strong showing. Between the indications of polls and social media,
expect Huntsman to be the odd man out in New Hampshire.