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January 10. 2012 11:34PM

Huntsman embraces 3rd-place finish

GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, and his wife, Mary Kaye, address his supporters after the results of the New Hampshire Primary came in Tuesday night at the Black Brimmer in Manchester. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — Third place was just fine with Jon Huntsman.

The former Utah governor and two-time U.S. ambassador celebrated his third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary almost like he had won it.

Having bypassed campaigning for Iowa's caucuses and focusing on the Granite State, Huntsman felt the strategy paid off as he finished behind only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas congressman Ron Paul in Tuesday's voting.

“I'd say third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen,” Huntsman proclaimed.

Huntsman's campaign party at the Black Brimmer in downtown Manchester was packed with supporters, standing shoulder-to-shoulder as they anxiously watched televised updates of Tuesday's results. Even after the race was called with Romney winning and Paul finishing second, Huntsman hopefuls were poised to celebrate.

After Romney declared victory and Paul celebrated finishing second, it was Huntsman's turn.

Chants of “Country First!” rang out as Huntsman and his family made their way to the podium for a raucous welcoming ovation. U2's “Beautiful Day” blared over the speakers before Huntsman began his speech, saying Americans have lost trust in the government and were in search of someone that could break the gridlock in Congress.

“They tired of being divided. They want leadership that will stand up and tell us all that first and foremost we need to come together as Americans in order to solve our problems,” Huntsman said. “We've proved the point that this state wants its candidates to earn it the old-fashioned way. That's on the ground, handshake by handshake, conversation by conversation, vote by vote. We got it done, ladies and gentlemen.”

Huntsman was interrupted by cheering several times, including when he said it was time to bring American soldiers back from Afghanistan and promoted term limits in Congress.

Huntsman noted his service abroad, saying he had followed the nation from afar after stepping down as Utah's governor to take over as U.S. ambassador to China.

“I saw a nation with the greatest people on Earth. A nation that is down for the moment temporarily, but a nation that is about to rise up again because we have every attribute a nation would ever want to succeed,” Huntsman said. “We have stability. We have rule of law. We have the longest surviving constitution in the world.”

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