TILTON, N.H. -- Although a new statewide poll suggests his campaign needs drastic action, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said on Monday he's not going to "light his hair on fire" to get noticed in Tuesday night's debate.
Campaigning in New Hampshire, where he delivered a major foreign policy speech, Huntsman was asked by reporters whether he had a strategy for standing out at a Republican candidate debate, Huntsman's first debate appearance in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
"Well, you can light your hair on fire I guess. But I'm not gonna light my hair on fire," he said.
"I don't think you have to be crazy to be in the Republican Party... People go up and then they go down. I remember when I got into this race, it was Pawlenty's to lose. Then it was Bachmann's to lose, and then it was Perry's to lose," Huntsman said, referring to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has left the contest, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who's still in but struggling to stay viable, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose campaign has stumbled from a string of weak debate performances.
"So people go up and they go down," he said. "All the while, I want a steady, substantive rise, with building blocks here in New Hampshire."
Huntsman has placed all of his political chips on New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state. But despite repeated visits and a decision to move his campaign headquarters to the state, a poll published Monday by Harvard and St. Anselm colleges showed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leading the pack in New Hampshire with 38 percent support among likely GOP primary voters, with Huntsman trailing at four percent. Businessman Herman Cain placed second with 20 percent.
Tuesday will mark Huntsman's first debate in New Hampshire. He had just entered the presidential race at the time of a June 13 GOP candidates' debate there and did not participate.
His remarks to reporters on Monday came during a visit to Tilton's Merrimack Valley Railroad Company, an old wooden train station. About 100 people gathered for his appearance, mostly St. Michael's College students on a whirlwind field trip to see Huntsman, Bachmann, Romney, and Cain stump around the state.