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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