Huntsman’s Hurting

Bookmark and Share    According to a new Public Policy Polling survey of Utah Republican primary voters, despite once having record approval numbers as Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman can now only muster the support of 10% of his state’s Republican vote in the race for the G.O.P.’s presidential nomination.

Furthermore; according to the poll, among Utah Republican primary voters, Huntsman has a 46% disapproval rating and only a 43% approval rating. And when it comes to the Republican base vote in Utah, among those who consider themselves to be very conservative, PPP describes Huntsman as a “pariah” to them. Conservative Republicans give their former Governor a 29% approval rating while 61% give him a negative rating.

In a head-to-head match up of the still evolving Republican presidential field in Utah, PPP finds Mitt Romney with 63% of the Republican vote compared to Huntsman with 10%, Michele Bachmann with 6%, Sarah Palin with 5%, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Ron Paul at 4%, Newt Gingrich at 3%, and Tim Pawlenty at 1%.

While this poll is far from conclusive, it is darn good evidence of just how elusive the Republican nomination is likely be for Jon Huntsman.

Given the influential Mormon demographic of Utah, this particular poll largely reflects how protective Mormons are of Romney. Among LDS members, inactivity within the community is heavily frowned upon. Romney is quite active within the LDS, especially compared to Huntsman who has been in China for two years. The poll also reflects a general lack of appreciation for Jon Huntsman’s willingness to join the Obama Administration. This is especially the problem among conservative Republicans. And therein lies the bulk of the evidence which leads one to conclude that Huntsman might have been better off either remaining the Governor of Utah or staying on as President Obama’s Ambassador to China.

A Republican presidential contender who has a 61% disapproval rating among conservatives, especially in the state they governed, is not likely to win over enough of the Republican base vote in a Republican primary.

The results of this recent PPP poll seem to suggest that Huntsman might have a better shot at winning the liberal, ….. eh….I mean Democrat…… nomination for President than he does the Republican presidential nomination. As for Mitt Romney, this survey proves that he has a lock on the Mormon vote, which is no big deal, but he has yet to prove that he can assure himself the same lock on the conservative base vote that he will need to win the nomination by the time the national convention is held in Tampa. The relatively meteoric rise in the polls of Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and the fact that many conservatives are sitting on their hands until Texas Governor Rick Perry makes a decision, is evidence of that doubt about Romney.

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Huntsman is Running But Will Republicans Turn Their Backs To Him Like Lady Liberty?

Ronald Reagan announcing his presidential candidacy in 1980

Bookmark and Share   With the backside of the Statue of Liberty as his backdrop, Jon Huntsman, the former Ambassador to China and Governor of Utah went to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey and became the eighth Republican to officially announce his candidacy for President. In 1980, Ronald Reagan appeared in the same location to announce his presidential candidacy. Yet the exact angle from which candidate Reagan kicked off his campaign was quite different from the angle that candidate Huntsman used to kick off his campaign. Having been born in Brooklyn, New York and eventually moving to New Jersey, I am keenly aware of the fact that the Statue of Liberty faces New York, while offering New Jersey a view of her backside. Ronald Reagan’s campaign took this into account. Jon Huntsman’s campaign did not. When Reagan announced his candidacy, his campaign staged the event in Liberty State Park in such a way that aowed you to see the side of Lady Liberty from her side. 31 years later, Huntsman chose the same location, but at an angle that placed Lady Liberty’s rump in our face.

That observation may be superficial, but it is a sign of a campaign that is not as interested in the details as they should be.

Huntsman announcing his candidacy with Lady Liberty's back to him

And it was also a bit symbolic of Huntsman’s campaign kickoff. At best, Huntsman’s campaign announcement could be described as flat and uninspiring. His delivery was monotone and his need to constantly read from his written text that laid atop the podium before him, added to a performance that was not only uninspiring, but so scripted and unemotional that there was an unmistakable sense of insincerity surrounding the entire launch of his presidential campaign.

The former Ambassador ran through the now obligatory recitation of how as Governor, he did not raise taxes and how well his state was prepared to handle the national economic downturn. He spoke of how we need not “hope”, but answers, and he mentioned how the next great generation of Americans are looking for the type of leadership that will allow them to rebuild America and restore her promise.

In his speech, Huntsman also stressed civility, the need to restore it in politics and promised that his campaign will take the high road. He even went so far as to state that he greatly respects all the Republican presidential candidates and President Obama as well. However, prior to that statement, Huntsman took a subtle swipe at frontrunner Mitt Romney. In what was an obvious attempt to point out Romney’s more than decade old conversion from a pro-choice position, to a right to-life position, Huntsman pointed out that he has been a lifelong right-to-lifer. He then proceeded to call himself the “ultimate conservative.”

Calling ones self “the ultimate conservative” may seem to be smart political strategy in a field of candidates that will each be trying to outdo the other when it comes to who can move furthest to the right but it can only work if it is true and can be received without much laughter. In Huntsman’s case though, being called the ultimate conservative sounds more sarcastic than honest. Fiscal conservatives will argue that after increasing his state’s budget by 10% every year he was office, he is not fiscally conservative. Social conservatives will argue that Huntsman’s pro-gay marriage position is far from socially conservative. And all conservatives will consider his support of Cap-and-Trade from as recently as two years ago is not at all conservative.

So Huntsman’s strategic self description may not really be very smart. It only makes him a vulnerable target in the battle to win the far right base. By making his ultimate conservatism a theme of his campaign, his actual lack of conservative credentials on several issues and the willingness of his seven Republican opponents to point them out, will simply undermine his candidacy

Huntsman still has the chance to make the case that his position on gay marriage is actually where true conservatives should be. If true conservatism represents equal civil rights and limited government that refuses to interject itself into our bedrooms, our personal lives, and our personal decisions, than perhaps Huntsman has a point. However, a presidential nomination process does not afford one the time necessary to make that case and to convincingly change generations of ingrained, ideological thinking and beliefs. Rightly or wrongly, in a presidential primary contest, one must play to their base, not try to retrain them.

Truth be told, Jon Huntsman is quite qualified to be both the Republican presidential nominee and President of the United States. A carefully crafted campaign can make the case that he is probably the one person running in either political Party, with the best foreign affairs knowledge and experience of them all. His experience as a U.S. Trade Representative and his experience as Ambassador to Singapore and China, give Huntsman unique insight in the burgeoning Asian markets that are critical to the U.S. economy. And his undeniable expertise when it comes to China puts him in the unique position of understanding that world power better than all others running for President. That experience could be quite helpful in delicate and important international affairs that involve dangerously disruptive rogue regimes such as North Korea and even Iran. And as a governor, Huntsman did much to create a pro-growth environment that allowed the people of Utah to drive their state’s economy in a way that outperformed most all other states.

But is that enough to win the Republican presidential nomination? Probably not.

In 2012, Republicans want an anti-establishment candidate. And while frontrunner Mitt Romney may not be that person, since his 2008 campaign for President, he has built for himself a national level of support from those who believe he gets it, that Huntsman still lacks. Between that and the enthusiastic but albeit limited support for the anti-establishment candidacies of Bachmann, Cain, and Paul, there is little chance for Huntsman to gain the type of traction that will allow him to truly compete with Mitt Romney. That is especially the case if Huntsman keeps on trying to sell himself as the “ultimate conservative”. And it will be even worse for Huntsman if Texas Governor Rick Perry enters the race.

In the final analysis, based upon the record and Huntsman’s lackluster campaign announcement, I do not see him as being the Republican that voters have been waiting for and I see little chance for him to prove otherwise. Ultimately, just like the Statue of Liberty in the background of Jon Huntsman’s campaign announcement, I think most Republicans will turn their backs on him.

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Jon Huntsman To Declare His Presidential Candidacy at the Statue of the Liberty

Bookmark and Share   Next week, on Tuesday June 21st, former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will make an announcement confirming that he is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. The announcement will take place at the Statue of Liberty which will serve as a backdrop for the kickoff of his presidential campaign.

After Minnesota Congresswoman confirmed her candidacy during Monday night’s Republican presidential debate, Jon Huntsman becomes the eighth major candidate to seek  the 2012 nomination. The total number of candidates stands at eleven when you include the fringe candidacies of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Republican and gay activist Fred Karger.

Huntsman’s entry into the race is not expected to shake the Republican presidential field up in any significant way. While President Obama’s politicall strategists once considered Huntsman to be the Republican with the greatest chance to defeat the him in 2012, few if any Republicans currently believe that is true today. President Obama appointed Huntsman to the position of Ambassador to China shortly after he was elected and Huntsman was reelected to a second term as of Governor Utah. Some suggest the move was designed to take the one time popular Utah governor out of the electoral equation in 2012. If so, it is obvious that it didn’t work.

While Huntsman had accrued an impressive record of accomplishment as Governor, before he resigned to become the chief diplomatic envoy to China, he began to reveal some liberal opinions that fail to endear him to either the conservative base of the G.O.P. or the voters of Utah who comprise the most conservative and reliably Republican electorate of any state in the nation. In presidential elections, Republican candidates typically pull 65% or more of the vote in Utah. In 2008, even John McCain received 62% of the vote, beating Barack Obama by 28%. Unfortunately for Republicans though, Utah only has 5 electoral votes but in a close election they could be the 5 electoral votes that determine who is President. However; despite once having a near 70% approval from Utah voters, although Huntsman would surely win the state over President Obama in in the general election, it is not clear that he would win the state’s Republican primary.

Recent polls have Mitt Romney ahead of Huntsman in Utah.

While Huntsman will lack a portion of conservative approval on some social issues, his experience with China and the Far East could set him up to be strong on the issue of the economy and jobs, specifically job creation.Under Presidents George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush, before Huntsman was Governor of Utah, he was the ambassador to Singapore and before and then a U.S. trade representative specializing in Asia. It his experience with trade and Asia that afford Huntsman a unique upper hand on just how the United States can compete with, and tap in to, the burgeoning Asian markets that are critical in striking a proper American trade balance and essential to American job creation. This is an area which Mitt Romney attempted claim expertise in and tried to parlay to his advantage in his 2008 presidential campaign. It did not work all that well for Romney then and it remains to be seen if Jon Huntsman will have any luck with trying to make that case to the American people in 2012.

As he begins his campaign, Jon Huntsman has access to a decent fundraising capability and he has a personality and charm that is a plus but there is little to initially give any reason to believe that Huntsman will occupy a place in the field that is any more significant than Rick Santorum. Huntsman certainly has the potential to make in roads and he is a shoe in for the Giuliani vote, so long as Giuliani does not run. But the Giuliani vote is not enough to win the Republican presidential nomination. To do that, Jon Huntsman needs to compete with people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum for the social conservative vote that is much more inclined to vote for one of them than they are to vote him.

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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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Expect Mitch Daniels to Run for President

Bookmark and Share Like the countdown to a space shuttle liftoff, the month of April has been ticking down to the launch or aborted missions of several different Republican presidential candidacies. The most notable are Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and soon to be former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr.. Both Daniels and Barbour have promised to make their decision some time by the end of April. Gingrich has recently suggested a similar timeline and Jon Huntsman who cant legally make an announcement while still serving as an Ambassador is likely to make his intentions known shortly after his April 30th resignation takes effect.

I predict that at least three of these men will be declaring their candidacy.

While that is not a bold prediction insofar as Gingrich and Huntsman go, it is a bit of a stretch to be so definitive about Barbour and even more so concerning Mitch Daniels.

As for Huntsman and Gingrich, the secret is out. Gingrich has done little to keep his intentions hush and as soon as Huntsman announced that he was resigning from his post as the nations chief envoy to China, we all pretty much knew that he was going to act on his already stated intention to look at a run for president in 2012. In the case of Barbour, his intentions have been quite clear, but so have his hurdles to a successful run for both the Republican presidential nomination and the presidency itself. His history as a very successful lobbyist, the oozing of some unfair Southern stereotypes, combined with a few early verbal gaffes on race, and his reputation as the ultimate political insider, pose the potential Barbour campaign with some obvious questions that they have had to figure whether or not they can overcome.

In an attempt to do so, Barbour has been lighting up switchboards from California, to Florida and South Carolina, as he tests the waters. He has even politely suggested that potential supporters hold their powder, and their money, until he makes a decision. Given the extent of Barbours effort so far, I tend to believe that he has the fire in the belly that gives one presidential fever, a fever that has to be fed in order for it break. So I expect that hemaysoonannopunce the creation of his presidential exploratory committee. This will be for two purposes. One is to confirm both how much fire really is in his belly and how amenable his wife is to the idea, and two, to see that if it is at all possible for the fire in his belly to be quite enough to win the White House. As for Mitch Daniels, I am going completely out a very shaky limb when I say that he will be running.

Accept for the talk of others, Mitch Daniels has done little if anything to appear like a potential Republican presidential candidate. And while he has taken advantage of a few high-profile speaking engagements, such events are in many ways only natural for a highly successful, two term governor. At the same time, it has been no secret that like Haley Barbours wife, Mitch Daniels wife Cheri is not thrilled by the prospects of having to endure an invasive and inevitably harsh presidential campaign. So there is really very little to support my conclusion that Mitch Daniels will run.

Except for three things.

The lovely Mrs. Cheri Daniels

First is Cheri Daniels. While she is not a fan of the spotlight and is not excited about the possibility of having to join her husband on the presidential campaign trail, in this, Daniels last year as Governor of Indiana, Cheri has agreed to be the main speaker at a Republican State Party dinner. That is not exactly the sign of a spouse preparing to fade in to the obscurity of private life. It sounds to me more like an introduction of both her to the people, and of Cheri to the spotlight.

Another event having me lean more towards a Daniels run, than against it, is the timing of a major speech on education that the Governor is slated to give in Washington, D.C. at the American Institute. This event is five days after the Indiana state legislative session is scheduled to conclude. Daniels has promised to announce his decision regarding the presidency when that sessionis over. It is here that I do not expect Daniels to announce that he is running, but rather the start of either his exploratory committee or the very soon date to come when he will make a similar announcement.

The final reason I have for believing that Mitch Daniels is in fact running for President has to do with his dragging the question out. Mitch Daniels is an understated man. He is not about the drama. He is a nuts and bolts guy and he had nothing to gain by dragging out the possibility of a presidential candidacy. His whole reason for not announcing his interest in running was due to state politics. Daniels did not want the left to accuse the him of advancing policies that were good for his presidential aspirations but bad for the state. And if Governor Daniels would have been able to get rid of that suspicion altogether by announcing that he was not running for President, he would have done that long ago.

There are of course some caveats.

I do not yet sense that Mitch Daniels has the same fire in the belly that his longtime close friend Haley Barbour does. For that reason, I am suspicious of there beingsome friendly teamwork going here. As I described in a previous White House 2012 post entitled Is a Barbour/Daniels Ticket in the Works? , Daniels could become a candidate in order to help divide the vote outside of the South, between himself, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney. This split would allow Barbour to fare better outside of the South where he does not do so well. It would also help keep Mitt Romney from racking up big numbers. In that scenario, Daniels would eventually drop out of the race and try to swing his delegates over to Haley Barbour.

This may sound too Machiavellian to some but this is the big time. It is politics at the highest level and few know how to play politics better than the ultimate political insider, Haley Barbour. That combined with a well established, longstanding friendship between Barbour, Daniels and their families, makes this not quite as far-fetched as some might be inclined to think.

I for one hope that isnt the case. As someone who in 2008, supported Mitt Romney for President, was a part of the Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President movement, and is currently torn between them Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels and Newt Gingrich, I am looking forward to a genuine battle for my support. I am hoping for a contest that will force the eventual nominee to have to truly earn the nomination and allow us to discover who truly represents our conservative values best, can advance them the most, and is most capable of applying them to the practical application of government. I believe all of the above mentioned names are candidates who can do that. The question is, which one can do all three the best? It is my deepest wish to find that out through a well fought contest, that publicly tests all these skills among all the candidates.

But before that process begins, I expect this final week in April to be slow, in the sense of it being a slow build up to a very busy May.

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Jon Huntsman’s Republican Primary Speaking Engagements

Bookmark and Share If Ambassador Jon Huntsman isnt running for President, someone needs to tell him. The former Governor of Utah only has two weeks before his resignation as ambassador to China takes effect, yet before he even has time to unpack his bags, he already has a list of speaking engagements that follows the presidential primary path to the White House.

As reported here last week Huntsman is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on May 21st. Now it is reported that Huntsman, will be delivering the is giving a University of South Carolina commencement speech May 7.

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Huntsman To Speak In New Hampshire

Bookmark and Share Ambassador Jon Huntsmans resignation from his post as the chief envoy to China but that hasnt stopped him from accepting to deliver the keynote speech at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on May 21, shortly after his resignation does take effect.

Huntsmans foray into New Hampshire could mark the beginning of campaign that has the potential to upturn the common thinking about the potential Republican presidential field. It is also likely to cut deepest in to the candidacy of Mitt Romney, the man who is currently viewed as an early frontrunner.

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Romney Runs Strong Against Huntsman Among Mormons and In Utah

Bookmark and Share With the possible entry of Jon Huntsman into the Republican presidential contest, Mitt Romney is encountering one of the first of what will probably be many twists for him to come. Huntsman is the former, popular Governor of Utah. He left the job to accept President Obamas appointment of him to become Ambassador China, less than 1 year into his second term. Now Huntsman resigned from that job in what is widely seen as a possible run for President.

Such a run would force Mitt Romney to do something which he has not had to do in his previous run for the G.O.P. presidential nomination ..compete for the votes of fellow Mormons. Both Huntsman and Romney are Mormons and in 2008, the large populations of LDS members helped boost Romneys fortunes primarily in Western states such as Utah and Nevada. If Huntsman were to run, he would risk splitting the Mormon vote between himself and Romney. But a new The Deseret News/KSL poll gives Romney some reason to be encouraged. It finds that 56 percent of Utahns would vote for Romney, while only 26 percent would choose Huntsman. Another 9 percent said they would vote for neither candidate, and nine more percent were undecided.

While those numbers are good, among Republican voters, the poll finds that 72 percent would support Romney while only 15 percent would vote for the once popular former Governor.

These results are probably due in large part to the fact that before he left office as Governor, Huntsman made remarks in support of several gay rights issues, including same-sex marriage. These pronouncements stunned many Mormons and much of the predominantly conservative electorate of Utah. The poll shows that these voters have apparently not forgotten Huntsmans remarks.

The most interesting thing to come from thispoll is to find that Huntsman has lost much of the shine that he once had among his supporters. That does not bode at all well for Huntsman. Ifhe cant compete with Romney in his own state, it is not likely that he would be more appealing than Mitt in other states, and if Huntsman cant beat Romney in Utah, he is not likely to beat him anywhere else.

At the moment Huntsman is perceived as a moderate and asa potential candidateto compete more directly with aRudy Giuliani than a Mitt Romney. But Jon Huntsman has the potential to shape a very attractive candidacy through a well run and well crafted campaign that could make inroads into the base of the Party and successfully pitch him as one of the most electable Republicans to run against President Obama in the general election.

The road to the White House is a long one. Just ask Mitt Romney. He has been running now since 2006. So while it is too early to say how far Huntsman will get. For now the map looks a bit better for Mitt than it does for Jon.

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Republican Jon Huntsman Resigns as Ambassador to China to Explore a Run for President

Bookmark and Share White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has announced that the United States Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman “plans to leave during the first part of this year.” Reports indicate that a source close to Politico claims that Ambassador Huntsman submitted his letter of resignation as early as Monday but there is no indication of when that resignation is to officially take effect.

Huntsman, a Republican, is a highly popular former Governor of Utah and was viewed as having both a good shot at, and serious ambitions of becoming President. In fact, it was the popularity and perceived elect ability of Jon Huntsman which is said to have been one of the main reasons President Obama picked Huntsman to be the Ambassador to China. In addition to having a great breadth of experience in Asian affairs and speaking fluent Mandarin, it is said that the selection of Huntsman was largely a strategic one designed to keep Huntsman out of the hunt for President in 2012. Close Obama strategists have been said to have once considered Huntsman one of the most difficult Republican opponents to beat in a general election.

In a general election, that may in fact be true. But Huntsmans chances of winning the Republican nomination before getting to that point, may be even more difficult than the general election for President.

While the former Utah Governor racked up an extraordinary record on jobs, spending, budgets and the economy of Utah, before resigning during the first year of his second term in order to accept his ambassadorship, Huntsman came out in support of several issues that are poisonamong social conservatives and much of the Republican base. Most notable was his support of gay marriage. It is on social issues like that, which Huntsman would have a tough time getting by the GOP base with. But it would not be an insurmountable challenge for the talented diplomat and politician.

On issues like abortion, Huntsman is a strong ally of movement conservatives and it is on other hot buttons issues of the day, such as trade, spending, taxes, and jobs that Huntsman has wide appeal. These are also the very reasons why Huntsman has been rumored to be establishing a presidential exploratory committee. If Huntsman sees opportunities to exploit his record as Governor along with his expertise and experience as a former U.S. Trade Representative to Asia, and one time Ambassador to Singapore in addition to his most recent stint as Ambassador to China, arguable the most important international relationship we have right now, than Huntsman is likely to take advantage of those opportunities. That will especially be the case if the emerging field of Republican presidential contenders fails to produce a unifying figure substantial enough for most conservatives to get behind.

That type of situation would allow the conservative vote to be split and leave Huntsman fighting for the middle among people like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Of course both Pawlenty and Romney are already trying to shore up their appeal to conservatives, and so will Huntsman. On many issues, Huntsman can be as conservative as the next guy. But in 2012 people like Huntsman and even Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels are banking on jobs, the deficit and the economy to be the overriding issues. Issues which both Daniels and Huntsman have strong state records on. These also provide with openings in to winning the support of those involved in TEA Party movement.

But Jon Huntsman also has the opportunity to build on something which his most likely potential opponents do not.

With his experience as a former U.S. Trade Representative and his expert knowledge on China, Huntsman can offer a unique perspective on the crucial elements of trade with China and the burgeoning Asian markets that we must remain competitive in if we hope to maintain a strong economic future. His knowledge of Chinacan alsoplay a pivotal role in handling many issues that impact on our national security, such as the nuclear ambitions of rogue regimes like Iran and even more prominently, North Korea.

As pointed out in a previous White House 2012 post, Jon Huntsman could run a very potent campaign. But it all depends on who else is running in 2012 and whether or not the issues of today are the same ones that are on front burners in 2012. In the meantime, close allies of the President who are preparing for his reelectioncampaign, havealready beenbracing themselves for a challenge from Huntsman. Many Obama insidershave been referring toHuntsman as “the Manchurian Candidate”. The President has himself joked about Huntsman and made some tongue in cheeks remarks about how certain he is that the Ambassador’s work with him, will go over real well in a Republican primary.

The way I see it though, Republicans won’t hold Huntsman’s acceptance to serve the President as Ambassador to China against him, but the ever important independent voters within America’s electorate will really appreciate the fact that aRepublican like Huntsman iscan be tapped for

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New Polls in Iowa and New Hampshire Make Nothing Very Clear

Bookmark and Share Two new Strategic National polls offer results from Iowa and New Hampshire that mirror other similar surveys.

Of 410 Iowans who are described as typical caucus voters, former Governor Mike Huckabee is ahead of his closest possible rival, Mitt Romney, by 9.02%.

Complete poll results were as follows:

  1. Mike Huckabee 27.56%
  2. Mitt Romney 18.54%
  3. Undecided 17.56%
  4. Sarah Palin 12.44%
  5. Newt Gingrich 12.20%
  6. Tim Pawlenty 4.39%
  7. Michele Bachmann 3.66%
  8. John Thune 1.95%
  9. Rick Santorum 0.98%
  10. Other/Undecided 0.49%
  11. Haley Barbour 0.24%

In New Hampshire a random sample of 940 Republican primary voters offered a result that was almost as equally lopsided between the first and second place finishers as Iowa’s results were, but here it is Romney who takes the lead. The New Hampshire poll played out like this:

  1. Mitt Romney 33.51%
  2. Mike Huckabee 13.83%
  3. Sarah Palin 12.77%
  4. Newt Gingrich 8.62%
  5. Tim Pawlenty 5.21%
  6. Mitch Daniels 1.60%
  7. Rick Santorum 1.28%
  8. Haley Barbour 0.96%
  9. John Thune 0.21%
  10. Other/Undecided 22.02%

Both polls do little more than confirm what we already knew. What we don’t know though is who Iowa and New Hampshire voters will actually be splitting their votes between when it is time to vote and caucus. While we are more than certain that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty will be running, and pretty sure people like Fred Karger and Rick Santorum are running, we do not know with any certainty if Mike Huckabee or any of the other often mentioned names are running. Furthermore, given the countless number of variables, including who will or wont be in the race and the great potential that the campaigns of many potential candidates have, it would be naive to assume that anyone who is a frontrunner at this moment, will be the winner a year from now.

However, when it comes to New Hampshire and Iowa and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, a combination of name recognition from their 2008 presidential runs and demographics, Romney and Huckabee are where they should be in New Hampshire and Iowa and are naturals to win those state respectively.

If they did win in these tow states, the Republican presidential nomination contest is likely to be wide open well into the primary and caucus season.

Following Iowa and New Hampshire are Nevada and South Carolina. Here too a split decision is as natural as it is in the results of Iowa and New Hampshire. Demographics and established name recognition make Nevada a natural for Romney to win and South Carolina a natural for Huckabee to take. Of course with South Carolina being more of a sign of how the South goes than Nevada is of the way the West goes, Huckabee’s win in South Carolina would put him in a much better position for him than Romney.

South Carolina is where Romney has to draw his wall of fire. It is where he has to establish the “Big Mo” that George H. W. Bush thought he had behind him in the 1980 primaries against Ronald Reagan.

Of course as noted in previous White House 2012 posts, if enough candidates who are attractive to the evangelical vote, jump into the race, Romney could be the beneficiary and have the chance to walk right up the middle.

For now though, it really is too early to base any wagers on any of these polls. None of the potential candidates campaigns can be underestimated and there are so many possible players at the moment that it is too difficult to predict which way any one demographic or state will fall.

If Newt Gingrich were to run, not only will his command of the issues be undeniably impressive, but between the unique and numerous ideas he brings to the table, combined with a personality that will surprise many and the ability to reshape his image, he could quickly become an appealing figure to many, including evangelicals and TEA Party energized people.

If Sarah Palin were to run, her ability to campaign in a way that can broaden her base should not be underestimated and given the enthusiastic support that she already has from a loyal base of voters, such an expansion of her base could effect the primaries and caucuses profoundly.

But many other names also have the potential to establish powerfully effective campaigns that can attract the attention and support of any combination of influential wings of the G.O.P.. Texas Governor Rick Perry is building a solid foundation for a possible campaign that highlights states rights which appeals to TEA Party priorities. He has also built a record around anti-abortion measures and other social issues that are attractive to evangelicals and social conservatives. And on economic issues, his tax cuts, spending cuts and jobs record in the Lone Star State, appeal to all wings of the Republican Party.

Indiana’s Mitch Daniel’s is another figure whom could take the Party by storm. His American Heartland appeal and economic prowess will shine brighter than most. The entry of Mississippi’s Haley Barbour could quickly round up a large portion of the G.O.P. inner circle, raise oodles of money, count on many favors owed to him, significantly coalesce Southern support and dilute Huckabee’s Southern strength, while also surprising people with his own strategic abilities and appeal to conservatives in all four corners of the country.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota will be force to a contend with if he runs. While the addition of his name in to the field may not initially turn the race on its ear, he will quickly gain steam. Then there are other names like Rick Santorum and Mike Pence. All of these names will sharply divide the conservative vote, thereby give people like Tim Pawlenty, as well as Mitt Romney and maybe even Rudy Giuliani a better shot at racking high delegate counts.

And through it all may also be the likes of libertarians Ron Paul and former new Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as well as those dark horse candidates, such as Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and maybe even Donald Trump.

Right now, all that we can be sure of is that while some names like Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and outsider Fred Karger have all but made their campaigns official, everyone else is watching what each of the other names are doing. And until people like Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, John Thune and Sarah Palin, make up their minds, people like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman and more, will be waiting to make up their own minds.

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President Obama Grilled Over Huntsman in Front of China’s President

Bookmark and Share At a press conference between President Barack Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao, one of the most discomforting questions asked by a reporter during the high level event was one which sought a reaction from President Obama regarding the possibility of his own Ambassador to China running against him in 2012.

The Presidents initial response was an amusing, lightheartedly sarcastic reference to partisanship. “I’m sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary,” said President Obama.

But the President ultimately answered the question quite diplomatically, and in a seemingly sincere, friendly way. He said that Ambassador Huntsman was a man of enormous” skill, dedication and talent and added “Both he and I believe that partisanship ends at the water’s edge,” “We work together to advocate on behalf of our country.”

As this exchange occurred, Ambassador Huntsman was seated in the front row, and what was undoubtedly a most uncomfortable seat to be in as your boss stood their addressing a predicament that you were responsible for.

But the position Huntsman is in is actually a very good one. If he so chooses, he could make a very real run for the Republican presidential nomination. As governor of Utah, he hammered together a pretty substantial record on matters of taxes, spending, job creation, and the environment. In addition to that, on the international stage he is an undisputed expert on an area of the world that is having increasing global influence and a substantial impact on the American economy.

And as a Republican, he also has a pretty substantial endorsement to take to the bank. Being picked to an important position by the very Democrat you might run against, could offer Huntsman a lot of mileage.

Since at least as early as 2010, Huntsman supporters have stood ready to launch a run for his presidency if he gave the go. That began when those supporter started a PAC which close friend and advisor to Huntsman, Kirk Jowers, is the attorney. At the time Jowers the PAC is practically an effort to draft Huntsman to run, most likely in 2016. He added

“Supporters of Gov. Huntsman want to create an entity that can support ‘Huntsman-esque’ candidates and potentially provide a vehicle when he returns to the States, should he be interested in future office,” Jowers said.

Given the current atmosphere, Ambassador Huntsman could very well be looking at pushing up that 2016 timeline and using President Obamas own confidence in Huntsman, against him in 2012.

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Jon Huntsman’s Potentially Potent Presidential Candidacy

Jon Huntsman

Bookmark and ShareRepublicans considering a run for President are slow to make anything official. Each one is eyeing what the others are doing. With the exception of Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Herman Cain, and even Rick Santorum, more than a dozen others are considering how the possible candidacies of people like Sarah Palin, Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels, could effect their own chances and holding off a decision until they know who will or wont be in the race.

A handful of others like South Dakota Senator John Thune, and Texas Governor Rick Perry are waiting till all the dust settles in an attempt to see if the field finally assembled contains a solid candidate that has a real shot of beating President Obama. If no such clear fronrunner appears, they could be banking on shifting the focus to them with a late entry into the race. One name that fits into this category and could throw a monkey wrench into the plans of everyone else is Jon Huntsman.

The former Utah Governor turned Ambassador to China is a deep pocketed statesman with an ability to hammer together an attractive campaign and the resources to finance it. He brings to the table a level of experience that few others in the emerging GOP field can attest to.

Some figures like Mitt Romney have been traveling abroad trying to enhance their foreign policy credentials. Sarah Palin is planning a trip toIsrael in the near future. Others like Haley Barbour have been highlighting his state’s negotiations which have attracted foreign corporations to set up shop in Mississippi. But John Huntsman need not work hard at trying to pump up his foreign affairs experience. Not only is he currently the diplomat charged with maintaining relations with China, one of the most important and consequential players on the international stage, under President George W. Bush, he was the ambassador to Singapore and before that, under President George H. W. Bush, he 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 matters. In the eyes of many, including President Obama who called upon him to be Ambassador, Huntsman is considered the single most knowledgeable public figure on China in the nation. Such knowledge can make him uniquely capable of positive global influence. Think that is an overstatement? If you understand that the United States and China are the world’s two greatest economies, have the world’s two largest militaries and are the world’s two largest energy and carbon users, you can begin to see that Huntsman’s experience, knowledge and Asian relationships do indeed afford him the opportunity to address challenges that have global impact.

In addition to having some very close ties to, and intimate knowledge of, an area of the world where China plays a critical role in regional stability among imp[ortant players such as Japan, and North and South Korea, as a former trade representative to the region, Huntsman also has invaluable experience and knowledge in an area of great economic importance to the United States. The burgeoning Asian markets offer the U.S. a challenge that we must meet. In 2008, Mitt Romney’s campaigned on the issue. He consistently stressed the importance of insuring that we remain competitive enough to tap into the fast growing Asian markets and economy. If anyone has a leg up on this issue of great economic importance, it is Jon Huntsman.

But moving off the International stage and in to the domestic arena, here too Jon Huntsman has accrued a record that demonstrates an ability to effectively address the problems and hot button issues that we face here at home.

During his four and a half years as Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman establisheda reputation as the nation’s most popular governor. Almost a year after winning reelection to a second term, and accepting President Obama’s 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, Utah’s Democrat House Minority Leader, said of Huntsman, “I think it’s 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.”

In just the first two years in office, Huntsman had already achieved major tax reform, reduced the state’s sales tax on food and brought about a reduction in the income tax rate toa mere5 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. In the area of education Huntsman produced record levels of funding that were used to provide future generations with an education that emphasized early learning and training in growing industries like engineering and technology.

Putting together Huntsman’s pro-business and low tax record, with his trade and foreign affairs experience, as well as his ability to appeal to Democrats and the fact that he can claim a certain level of bi-partisanship as a Republican playing an important role in a Democrat Administration, and what you have is a candidate who is well positioned to run a campaign that could appeal to much of the American electorate. Indeed many conclude that President Obama tapped Huntsman to be the envoy to China in an attempt to avoid having to run for reelection against him in 2012.

But if Jon Huntsman chooses to take a ride down the road to the White House, he will find that the first few miles will be quite bumpy. While Huntsman could do well in a head to head match up with the President, getting to that point by winning the Republican nomination may not be that easy.

While the former Governor remains popular in his state and even has him beating long serving Utah Senator Orin Hatch in a hypothetical primary, he has taken some positions which even Utah Republican are uncomfortable with. Shortly after he announced that he would not be seeking a third term as Governor, he came out in support of civil unions, something he opposed when he first ran for Governor in 2004. He also came out in support of measures that allowed two unmarried, co-habiting adults to sign joint-support declarations to gain inheritance rights and medical-decision makinrights for one another. In addition to that, Huntsman lent his backing to a bill that outlawed employment and housing discrimination for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

Of course the rise of the TEA Party movement could possibly help Huntsman here. For the most part, the TEA Party movement is less concerned with bedroom issues and more concerned with getting the government out of the bedroom. If Huntsman can tap into such support from an infusion of TEA Party voters in Republican primaries and caucuses, he could benefit by offsetting the segment focused on the controversial issues of gay marriage and rights.

Interestingly, aside from his change of mind on alternative lifestyle issues, Huntsman has claimed for the record, that the GOP needs to moderate its positions on not only gay rights but immigration and the environment as well. He claims that if the Republican Party intends on attracting young people and remaining viable in the long term, this is a must.

This could be a hurdle hard for Huntsman to overcome among the religious right base of the Party, especially in early nomination contest like Iowa and South Carolina, where the evangelical vote is disproportionately influential. And a failure to oppose any cap-and-trade-like environmental policies or a refusal to take a hard-line position on securing the border, could be the death knell of his candidacy among even more moderate Republicans

To a degree, some of Huntsman’s positions on things such as gay marriage, could be seen as somewhat Libertarian based, a factor that if he doesn’t go too far to the left on immigration and the environment, could make him one of the few mainstream candidates with the ability to appeal to that base and draw some votes away from possible bottom tier candidates like former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

But then there is still one more problem that Huntsman may encounter. It is the same one that Mitt Romney continues to have to deal with. Both are Mormons. In addition to having to deal with apprehension over his religion by a segment of voters mainly within the South, there is the risk of Romney and Huntsman splitting the tight knit Mormon vote in places like Utah and Nevada, where the Mormon vote is significant.

All things considered, a Huntsman candidacy would be potent and if it comes to fruition, it will have a profound effect on the race for the Republican presidential nomination. If he were to run, he would be formidable and even though he would face some tough challenges, competing against him will be equally as challenging for his rivals. Huntsman is warm, articulate, impressive, cordial and extremelycharming. Put it all together and what you have is someone who can not be easily written off.

Right now the big question is whether or not we will be hearing news of Huntsman’s resignation as Ambassador to China. Without one of those within the next 2 to 4 months, the growing field of potential Republican candidates, and President Obama, can take a sigh of relief.

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