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Jon Huntsman Jr. tops news, courts lobbyists, plans campaign headquarters and New Hampshire schedule

May there be some real legitimacy to Jon Huntsman Jr.'s presidential ambitions?

With Huntsman spreading his message literally from rooftops and attracting increased attention from some of the nation's most influential political publications, the answer might just be yes.

Politico reports that Huntsman is courting heavy-hitting Beltway lobbyists (including insiders from the vast lobbying network meticulously constructed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has since bowed out of the 2012 race) with events like a Tuesday lunch at a swanky hotel and a rooftop meet-and-greet last week.

"The former Utah governor held a lunch meeting with lobbyists at Emergent Biosolutions's offices above the swanky Willard Hotel downtown, a lobbying source said. Privately, lobbyists with several large firms and trade associations say that Huntsman's team has reached out recently to invite them to similar events — a sign Huntsman is casting a wide net as he tries to catch up with potential candidates who have spent months or even years building their national networks. Tuesday's lunch was held at the same address where Huntsman held a rooftop meet-and-greet last week, also with K Streeters."

Huntsman coverage leads off the Wednesday edition of Mike Allen's Playbook tip sheet — "the principal early-morning document for an elite set of political and news-media thrivers and strivers" that "the White House wakes up to," according to a New York Times piece that recently won the 2011 National Magazine Award for best profile writing.

Allen opens today's Playbook with, "Good Wednesday morning. JON HUNTSMAN plans to put his headquarters in ORLANDO. … Huntsman yesterday announced his itinerary for his first N.H. visit, a swing that begins tomorrow evening: Jesse's Steaks, Seafood & Tavern in Hanover; house parties in Keene, Hancock and Durham; VFW posts in Concord and Laconia; commencement address at Southern New Hampshire University; Riley's gun shop, and Robie's Country Store, in Hooksett; Windham GOP meeting; and Jo Green's Garden Café in Wolfeboro (Romney's lake home)."

ABC News gives some context for Huntsman's choice to headquarter his campaign in Orlando: "The importance of the Sunshine State in the Republican nominating process (as well as in the general election) is clear, but Florida also has personal appeal for Huntsman. His wife, Mary Kaye, is from there and still has family in the area."

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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