Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman may have finished among the top of the pack in the New Hampshire GOP presidential primary, but it likely will not translate into much momentum in South Carolina, according to experts.
Huntsman eschewed campaigning in Iowa to instead appeal to the moderate Republicans in the Granite State, an effort that paid off as he outperformed most of his rivals. But his lack of funding and effort in other early states has mostly kept him out of the political narrative and voters' minds, making it nearly impossible to catch up thanks to Romney's pair of victories.
"He is the least-known candidate amongst the GOP base," says David Woodard, political science professor at Clemson University and former GOP political consultant in South Carolina.
"I'm sure (his New Hampshire finish) will help him some, but I don't see it bolstering his chances here when this is a conservative state, he's a moderate candidate – he has to divide space principally with Romney and I don't see how New Hampshire helps him or hurts him," he says. "It's kind of a non-factor."
Dennis Johnson, acting executive director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, says Huntsman made his best pitch in the state best designed for his politics and he still didn't finish first.
"He's poured so much time and energy into New Hampshire and New Hampshire is so much more of a compatible state than anything we've seen thus far or anything we will see in the upcoming primaries," he says. "I don't think there's going to be any kind of carry over into the next state."
Huntsman's New Hampshire finish is similar to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's in Iowa, says Kyle Kondik, analyst for the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"We saw Rick Santorum basically look like he was totally treading water, not doing anything and he was in Iowa all the time, then he did well and bounced up in polling in the last few days," says Kondik. "Huntsman is trying to repeat that in New Hampshire – but after these primary states you can't spend six months campaigning in a single state."
Though Kondik does not expect any of the GOP candidates to bail out of the race like Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann did after Iowa, he says Huntsman's finish is not enough to keep his campaign rolling much longer.
"Huntsman could play spoiler and prevent [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney] from winning South Carolina, but then again, on the other side of the ledger, you've got [former House Speaker Newt Gingrich] and [Texas Gov. Rick Perry] and Santorum all fighting for the same votes and so you could have a real split field in South Carolina," he says, adding that scenario ultimately helps Romney.
"It's great for Romney because then he can go on to Florida, which is a big media state and his resources are really going to be a factor," Kondik says.
While conventional wisdom says candidates end their campaigns when they run out of money, all the experts agreed this debate-driven GOP race features a fractured electorate, and has given lower-tier candidates an incentive to remain in the hunt.