Huntsman joins GOP race

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Registered: 03-18-2000
Huntsman joins GOP race
Wed, 06-22-2011 - 4:06pm

Newt drops out Huntsmann joins the race. What are his chances?

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Since the beginning — which was all of seven weeks ago — Jon Huntsman Jr.’s campaign has promised something completely different.

The campaign has offered video tidbits of a mystery man, a father of seven, a lover of rock music and a diplomat on a dirt bike who is no ordinary politician. The operation launched a sleek, clean Web site that looks nothing like those of other candidates.

Then the big reveal: Huntsman took the stage at Liberty State Park Tuesday and sought to deliver a careful message, one that included a different take from his Republican rivals on President Obama.

“I respect the president of the United States,” said Huntsman, who served as Obama’s ambassador to China until late April. “He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president, not who’s the better American.”

A self-described “margin of error” candidate, Huntsman entered the race for the White House Tuesday as the biggest wild card in the 2012 field. His long list of credentials and his fundraising ability could quickly catapult him to top-tier status. Or his unconventional approach and conciliatory message could relegate him to a footnote in the race.

Which way it goes is likely to turn on whether Huntsman, likened to Superman by a speaker at a New Hampshire stop Tuesday, can step into the lofty promises and expectations of the campaign that has been created around him, whether he can transform his carefully crafted man-of-the-moment narrative into momentum and crowds.

GOP strategist Ron Bonjean noted the risk of heightened expectations, particularly Huntsman’s choice to announce his candidacy across the water from the Statue of Liberty — the same spot where Ronald Reagan launched his general election campaign in 1980.

“The announcement of the speech backdrop created such a hype that it made it virtually impossible for Huntsman to capture lightning in a bottle with his performance,” Bonjean said.

Reagan historian and GOP strategist Craig Shirley offered a similar critique. “Frankly, the moment was bigger than Huntsman,” Shirley said after the speech. “Huntsman did not tell the viewer why he was running, what he would do if elected and why he was an acceptable alternative to President Obama.”

In making his announcement, Huntsman outlined his aspirations for the nation and cited his experience as governor in explaining how he would “reignite the powerful job-creating engine of our economy.”

“We did many of these things in Utah when I was governor. We cut taxes and flattened rates. We balanced our budget. . . . When the economic crisis hit, we were prepared,” Huntsman said. “We proved that government doesn’t have to choose between fiscal responsibility and economic growth.”

On the question of whether he can fulfill the narrative of his campaign, the evidence so far is mixed.

Huntsman’s own aides have openly wondered whether he can evolve from a candidate who connects in small rooms to one who can carry large crowds. The concern was underscored last week when Huntsman mentioned on the trail that he was tired. A few days later, he cancelled a scheduled appearance at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans because he was too sick to travel.

His campaign is also off to an uneven start. Staffers, many of whom never met Huntsman before he returned from China, spelled his name wrong on press passes handed out at Tuesday’s ceremony, inserting an “h” in Jon. Reporters spotted that the sleek new Web site included the wrong phone number — 123-456-7890 — and address — 123 Main Street, Charlotte, N.C. — for the campaign. The headquarters is actually on Orange Avenue — in Orlando.

A critical question will be how Huntsman chooses to articulate his relationship with Obama, and their differences. With others in the GOP field competing to be the loudest critic of the president, Huntsman has limited his criticism so far mostly to the president’s approach to foreign policy and the economy.

In his announcement speech, Huntsman alluded to Obama’s 2008 campaign theme by saying the nation needed “leadership that knows we need more than hope, leadership that knows we need answers.”

Obama aides are casting Huntsman, who was appointed ambassador by Obama in May 2009, as a changed man.

“He was encouraging on health care; he was encouraging on the whole range of issues,” said Obama strategist David Axelrod, in a CNN interview. “And if he had suggestions on the economy, he had an excellent opportunity to suggest them, when we were all together in China.”

In his speech, Huntsman said he intends to keep his criticism respectful, steering clear of “corrosive” hyperpartisan debate.

“We will conduct this campaign on the high road,” Huntsman said. “I don’t think you need to run down someone’s reputation to run for president.”

Huntsman is likely to spend the next several days laying out his vision for a new direction on Afghanistan and job-creation as he embarks on a tour to South Carolina, Florida, Utah and Nevada.

Huntsman’s aides are touting his fiscally conservative, pro-business record while governor of Utah, as well as his support of strict abortion laws.

And they argue that he is indeed different.

“He is totally comfortable with who he is, he is an authentic person, and he is the kind of guy who can lead our party to new heights demographically and philosophically,” said John Weaver, Huntsman’s top strategist. “Here is a guy who loves music, wanted nothing more than to be a rock star, loves motorcycles and can interact with everyone, and for a Republican, that is new and refreshing.”



iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Wed, 06-22-2011 - 4:20pm



iVillage Member
Registered: 08-30-2002
Wed, 06-22-2011 - 10:34pm

OT: I bet noone bats an eye that he is the father of seven children, and wonder if it will effect his ability to govern, like people questioned Sarah Palins ability to be the mother of 5 and govern. (I question her ability to govern, but it has nothing to do with the number of children she has.)

Of course Huntsman will have to overcome the Mormon hurdle. Like Obama being a "secret Muslim," in some peoples deluded minds,

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Thu, 06-23-2011 - 7:59am

"He is the only potential candidate from the GOP that I can remotely consider being not being a total joke."

I agree. Will he be 'eaten alive' by the Republican fringe as not being Republican enough?



iVillage Member
Registered: 06-07-2011
Thu, 06-23-2011 - 1:36pm
This will certainly be an interesting election. What many democrats need to keep in mind is that many people (independents mostly) voted for Obama as a referendum against Bush. They didn't like McCain. If a strong republican candidate emerges and the economy continues to spiral, Obama may just have a real run for his money.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-03-2009
Thu, 06-23-2011 - 7:39pm
He might. But I have yet to see anybody from the Republican pack who has enough in common with my own, admittedly mostly liberal, beliefs to get my vote. Economics alone won't sway my independent vote.


iVillage Member
Registered: 06-07-2011
Thu, 06-23-2011 - 8:29pm
Well, with Obama's continued slide in the polls, it appears that there are quite a few people who are tired of all talk and no action and are looking for a true leader to get us out of this economic mess. Again, it looks like the economy is going to continue to slide, but I agree with you that there is no strong republican candidate that has surfaced yet.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Fri, 06-24-2011 - 11:33am

This was the first article I read about him as a contender.

Jon Huntsman: The Potential Republican Presidential Candidate Democrats Most Fear,8599,2071003,00.html

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman has just proved he can keep 1,100 graduating college kids awake for 17 minutes — and even led them in a popular local cheer about kicking ass. But Obama's lean, understated former ambassador to China is really here to prove he can mount a credible campaign against the man he was working for a week prior. In a brightly lit cinder-block room inside the sports arena where the University of South Carolina has held its commencement, the former Utah governor jokes that the stark setting of our interview — his first since returning to the U.S. — suggests he might be in for some "enhanced interrogation."

But if that's what I'm up to, then torture really doesn't work, because in several sittings and a couple of hours together over a week's time, I don't even come close to getting him to spill such puny secrets as whether he thinks we should be in Afghanistan or Libya ("There will be more to say about that"), in what ways he disagrees with Obama ("I don't want to get into specifics") or, for that matter, where he parts company with his fellow Republicans, including his distant cousin, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ("It wouldn't be fair to offer an opinion without doing due diligence"). And as for whether or not Huntsman still belongs to the Church of Latter-day Saints, I know less than I did before I asked him. ("I'm a very spiritual person," as opposed to a religious one, he says, "and proud of my Mormon roots." Roots? That makes it sound as if you're not a member anymore. Are you? "That's tough to define," he says. "There are varying degrees. I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.")

So careful that he's disinclined to weigh in on any matter on which he hasn't been fully briefed or made up his mind, Huntsman is nonetheless plenty open about wanting to compete for Obama's job. Already he's in primary-season mode, moderating his previously moderate views by praising the Tea Party as "a very legitimate manifestation of people's anger and frustration in where we are today" and junking his support for the regional cap-and-trade carbon-emissions pact he and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger once championed. "It hasn't worked," he says now, "and our economy's in a different place than five years ago." Until it recovers, he adds, "this isn't the moment" to keep trying.

While some Republican hopefuls have failed or are still trying to coax their loved ones onto the campaign bus, Huntsman's wife and their seven children are more than ready for a yearlong road trip that could begin as soon as June. "I would be extremely excited" if he ran, his daughter Liddy, 23, says. "He'd be the ultimate fresh face." ("Thanks, chief," he tells her in his usual soothing sotto voce style.)

Certainly, his party is in the market for one of those; competition was so modest at the first GOP presidential debate of the season that the sole top-tier contender who showed, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, was begging for a rival who could help him keep his skills up. As Huntsman's would-be campaign manager John Weaver tells me, "This is the weakest Republican field since Wendell Willkie won the nomination on the sixth ballot in 1940."

But is the understated 51-year-old Jon Meade Huntsman Jr. really the answer to the Republican Party's personnel problem? He is, after all, a pro-civil-union Mormon who has just finished nearly two years of service for Obama in the land many Americans consider the new evil empire. He is pro-environment — a little too green for many in his party — and hardly anyone knows who he is. Though Huntsman's path to the nomination is a certified long shot, you have to wonder why so many on both the right and left seem to be freaking out at the prospect of his jumping into the race.

Democrats who fear that Huntsman would do well against Obama in next year's general election are busy pelting him with rose petals — take that, you wonderful man! — that they openly hope will disqualify him in the eyes of Republican Party regulars. But it's Huntsman's fellow conservatives who are in a swivet over all the attention he's gotten since arriving home from China on April 30. As governor, the antiabortion, pro-gun Huntsman did all the things Tea Party conservatives say they want, slashing taxes and adding jobs. He did that in part by using his sway with Mormon elders to pave the way for a reform of state liquor laws that made it easier to get a drink.



iVillage Member
Registered: 11-27-2009
Fri, 06-24-2011 - 11:36am
yes, the media likes Huntsman. that I will agree with. Personally, I wasn't impressed with what I could find about him when his name first started to come up as a potential candidate.
It's early in the race for the nomination, it will be interesting how this all comes together. I'm not getting all excited about any one candidate right now.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
Sun, 06-26-2011 - 12:00pm
I wondered about that too. Will they brand him a "RINO"?