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Jon Huntsman to continue campaign, says he's headed to South Carolina

Republican presidential candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman shakes hands after speaking at an primary election night rally Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Manchester, N.H. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Updated: 9:42 p.m. ET

Coming off his strong projected third-place finish in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman plans to continue his campaign and compete in the January 21 primary in South Carolina, he confirmed Tuesday night.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I think we're in the hunt!" Huntsman cried, in a speech to supporters following the primary. "I'd say third place is a ticket to ride... Hello, South Carolina!"

"We proved the point that this state wants its candidates to earn [success] the old-fashioned way - that's on the ground, handshake by handshake, conversation by conversation, vote by vote," he said, exuberant before a cheering crowd. "We got it done, ladies and gentlemen!"

Huntsman, who skipped the Iowa caucuses, was counting on a strong finish in Tuesday night's contest to boost his long-shot presidential bid. While some observers predicted that the candidate would need a second-place win to move forward in the race, Huntsman on Tuesday made it clear that he would soldier on to the Palmetto state where.

Earlier in the evening, Huntsman attempted to paint himself as the anti-Romney Republican -- a tack he will almost certainly take in South Carolina -- positing in an interview with CNN that he, not the former Massachusetts governor, has what it takes to beat President Obama in the general election.

"The people of South Carolina will be looking for exactly what the people of New Hampshire have been looking for and that's electability," he said. "That's somebody who's going to be able to stand for the issues that are going to carry us to victory ultimately, be able to address the trust deficit and the economic deficit."

Not, he added pointedly, "talk about the enjoyment of firing people or about pink slips in a way that they'll get tripped up by the DNC and by the Chicago machine that has a billion dollars behind it."

Huntsman was referring to Romney, Tuesday night's victor, who recently took heat from his Republican rivals for commenting that he "like[s] being able to fire people" during remarks about the importance of being able to choose between health care providers.

When it was pointed out to him that the Romney "fire people" comment was taken out of context, Huntsman added that Romney was not immune to such practices himself.

"We understand, I think his campaign also took something out of context recently," Huntsman said, referring to a November Romney ad that quoted President Obama misleadingly. "That happens in politics."

Huntsman said Republicans needed to nominate a candidate that would be able to deal with the Obama team and "to make sure that we've got a messenger, whoever that happens to be, who can take it all the way to the end in ways that really does build trust among the American people."

Huntsman said his campaign was in "a solid, comfortable, confident position."

"We go South from here," he said.

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