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Huntsman has failed to gain traction as a candidate in the GOP field, and has trailed in the polls over the past months as a series of other contenders, such as Rick Perry and Herman Cain, surged in the polls, only to rapidly fall again.

Huntsman has also sought recently to distance himself from President Obama's administration, in which he served as ambassador to China.

"I put country first. I was born in the Navy," Huntsman said, explaining his past position. You always put your country first. This is an example of when you're called upon by your country to serve. During war, during economic hardship, that is my patriotic duty."

On Friday, Huntsman had no problem criticizing Obama, of whom he has spoken kindly in the past. "He has failed us on the economic front. He has failed to provide leadership," he said. "Our home is broken, our core is broken. That is where he has fundamentally failed us."

Yet Huntsman also wants people to take a closer look at his own "deep understanding of China," obtained through his experience living there as a diplomat. "If you want an effective U.S.-China relationship, we've got to strengthen our core right here at home," he said. The Chinese "know that we're weak."

Huntsman typically polls in the low single digits nationally, but does better in New Hampshire state polls. New Hampshire is widely considered Mitt Romney's strongest state, but Huntsman has not given up on a campaign strategy that involves betting big on winning there in January.

He recently staged his 101st public event in the state this cycle. "New Hampshire is where the action is going to be and I'm here to tell you it's going to be a two-man event," Huntsman said.