Huntsman Starts Campaiging For President in New Hampshire. What Effect Will He Have on the Race?

Bookmark and Share Although he is not yet an official candidate, former Utah Governor and ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, Jr. has today embarked upon his first swing through New Hampshire, the state that hosts the first in the nation primary. For the next five days, Huntsman is scheduled to do the type of retail campaigning that the state is famous for demanding of presidential candidates. He will be stomping at diners, grocery stores, VFWs and in one stop designed to specifically appeal to the conservative popularity of second amendment rights, Huntsman will visit a gun shop. The highlight of Huntsmans blitz of the Live Free of Die state will be the delivery of a commencement speech at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Saturday.

Huntsmans eventual effect on the Republican nomination contest is as of yet uncertain but at the very least, he has the ability to attract a coalition of enough moderate and liberal Republicans, and in states with open primaries like New Hampshire, enough Independent voters, to keep him in the game for the first half of the nomination process.

While Huntsmans actual record as a Governoris relatively conservative, upon leaving office to accept President Obamas appointment to be the chief envoy to China, Huntsman took a turn that made him a Giuliani-like mix of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. In addition to once being a supporter of Cap-and-Trade, after leaving office, the Governor who was immensely popular among the relatively ultra-conservative voters of Utah, voluntarily came out in support of a form of legalized gay marriage. The announcement came as quite a surprise not only because there was no political need for him to change his position, but also because that position was in direct conflict with Huntsmans Mormon faith.

Huntsmans political evolution will be a definite hindrance in his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination. That will especially be the case in the early voting evangelical states of Iowa and South Carolina. But states like New Hampshire which are less influenced by the religious right, will provide Huntsman with a better opportunity to do well in. This is mainly because when it comes to the economic issues that will seemingly remain a top priority, Huntsman has an impeccable record to run on. In just the first two years in office, Huntsman had already achieved major tax reform, reduced the states sales tax on food and brought about a reduction in the income tax rate to a mere 5 percent. Other significant accomplishments included a focus on economic development by recruiting new business and talent to Utah while also growing those businesses that already existed. This led to a booming economy. The Governor also turned Utah into a state with a booming tourism industry.

During his four and a half years as Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman established a reputation as the nations most popular governor. Almost a year after winning reelection to a second term, and accepting President Obamas appointment as Ambassador to China, Huntsman left office with a remarkable 86% approval rating. Even Democrats were sad to see him leave office. On his last day in office, David Litvack, Utahs Democrat House Minority Leader, said of Huntsman, I think its a day that is, in some respects, very solemn, Litvak added, To lose a type of leader like Gov. Huntsman, even as he goes on to great things in his new position, is definitely a loss for the state of Utah.

Another plus for Huntsman in the area of our economy comes from his strongest suit which is foreign affairs. As it relates to the economy in addition to his experience with Chinese diplomamcy, under President George W. Bush he was the ambassador to Singapore and before that, under President George H. W. Bush, was a U.S. trade representative specializing in Asia.

These three experiences help provide Huntsman with almost unsurpassable credentials in a number of critical foreign affairs matters but especiallyin regardsto the United States’ critically important economic need to tap into and compete with the lucrative and burgeoning Asian markets. Additionally, Huntsman is considered the single most knowledgeable public figure on China in the nation. As such, if you understand that the United States and China are the worlds two greatest economies, have the worlds two largest militaries and are the worlds two largest energy and carbon users, you can begin to see that Huntsmans experience with and knowledge of Asian relationships do indeed afford him the opportunity to address challenges of global importance.

The question is can Huntsman successfully translate that into a compelling case to solve U.S problems with trade imbalances, greater access to Asian markets and the creation of more American jobs? Still, even if Huntsman can make significant inroads in this area, based upon the balance of power that movement conservatives have in the Republican presidential nomination process, the Ambassadors chances of winning must rely heavily on that conservative base being heavily divided among other candidates. Can that vote be divided enough between Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann, Cain and other possible candidates like Palin and Daniels, and allow Huntsmans coalition of moderates and Independents to achieve a plurality of votes in individual state primaries and caucuses?

Huntsman hopes not only that the other candidates dilute the social conservative vote so much that none of them are able to piece together a winning majority, he intends to try to see that his strong fiscal conservative record peels off some of those conservative base voters for himself. That is one reason why on June 3rd, he will be attending the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington. While his position on gay marriage may conflict which a group like that, he hopes that his strong pro-life position combined with a perceived mastery of economic issues and a degree of electability that makes him seem more likely to be able to beat President Obama than other candidates, is enough for some of those voters to support him, even if only mildly.

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