Huntsman’s low poll numbers might keep him out of CNN debate

Jon Huntsman is betting his entire campaign on a good showing in New Hampshire, where he's currently running in third place among likely GOP voters according to a poll released last week.

But Huntsman's intensive focus on the Granite State could potentially cost him an appearance in an upcoming GOP primary debate. As the New York Times' Michael Shear was first to note, CNN's next Republican primary debate set for Oct. 18 in Las Vegas requires participants to meet a threshold of at least 2 percent support in three national polls since Sept. 1.

The problem for Huntsman: The ex-governor reached 2 percent in two polls released earlier this month, but his support dropped to 1 percent in a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday.

Huntsman still has another two and a half weeks to improve his poll standing in one more survey, but the prospect of being locked out in the Nevada debate highlights the high risk of his campaign's New Hampshire-or-bust strategy.

While Huntsman has talked up his "momentum" in New Hampshire, the national polls have to sting a little. The CNN/ORC poll released Monday found Huntsman trailing unknown candidates in the race, including "none/no one," a choice that received 4 percent support; "someone else" (3 percent) and "no opinion" (2 percent).

Huntsman, the most moderate candidate in the GOP field, is smart to focus on the famously independent New Hampshire electorate. However, the decision to downplay a more serious national strategy means that Huntsman now faces the prospect of elimination from a GOP debate that helps him gain valuable airtime and maintain his relevance in the primary race.