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In Michigan, a Lonely Hunter

The first thing to know about Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-Calif.) presidential campaign is that he travels light. "I don't have any consultants, thank God," he says, "so we don't have any large payroll we have to carry."


Rep. Duncan Hunter at a GOP debate last June. (AP)

With no busload of reporters following and relatively few handlers on the road with Hunter, his wife, Lynne, placed a call Friday to Capitol Briefing from a car en route to a Lincoln Day dinner in Michigan and then passed the phone to her husband.

If Hunter is discouraged at all by his showing in the first few primary states, he doesn't show it. Rather, he exudes optimism that his message will match the moment in the coming votes. "I think we're doing fine with our message of strong national defense, enforceable borders ... and bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs to America. That message resonates in Michigan," Hunter says.

As he points out, Hunter is "not a free trader," and he thinks that sets him apart from the rest of the field both in Michigan and South Carolina, where the textile industry has been suffering. Maybe so, but that message has not done the trick so far.

By the numbers: Hunter picked up a little more than 500 votes, or about 1 percent, in Iowa. He netted 1,220 votes -- which rounds down to zero percent -- in New Hampshire. In the Granite State, Hunter even drove 170 miles up to famed Dixville Notch on primary day because he thought one of the tiny town's residents was going to vote for him. None did.

Wyoming was a relative bright spot, handing him about 8 percent of the vote and an actual delegate.

Through Sept. 30, Hunter had raised $1.8 million for his campaign and had $133,000 left in the bank. Hunter also has seven congressional endorsements, for whatever that's worth.

The candidate whose issues profile was most similar to Hunter's, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), dropped out of the race on Dec. 20.

All along, Hunter has had to deal with questions from reporters asking either when he's dropping out or why he's running at all. The lead "news" item Friday on his official Web site, dated Jan. 7, simply says, "UPDATE: Never mind, Hunter's still in the race. His announcement was an opportunity for him to blast the 'knuckleheads' in the media that excluded him from the last two GOP debates."

So if he's staying in for now, how well does Hunter have to do in the upcoming primaries in Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina to remain in the contest?

"I haven't set any metric. What we're doing is giving it 100 percent," he says, though he does admit, "I think I need to do well in one or more of those states."

By Ben Pershing  |  January 12, 2008; 11:56 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , House  
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