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Jon Huntsman Tries to Get Traction with His Foreign Affairs Credentials

Bookmark and Share   Ahead of his giving a major foreign policy address in New Hampshire today, former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman released the following web ad.

Huntsman will draw contrasts between himself and the rest of the G.O.P. presidential field by making the case that his representation of the United States as Ambassador to China and Singapore and once as Deputy United States Trade Representative, give him the type of foreign affairs experience and knowledge that few others running for President in 2012, including President Obama, have.  His case is a good one.  However few seem to be concerned with that experience and even fewer seem to think Huntsman’s experience will equate to superior handling of foreign affairs as Commander-in-Chief.

But for Huntsman, foreign affairs is probably his greatest weapon in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.  His knowledge of China is unsurpassed and at a time when the greatest to threat to America’s economic survival and strength as a superpower comes from China, such knowhow should be quite valuable.  Yet Huntsman has not been able to get voters to draw that connection.   Nor has he seemed to try to do so with any great intensity.

In his remarks today, Huntsman is instead going to try to appeal to Republicans by tapping into the weariness of the War in Afghanistan, the longest war in our nation’s history.   In excerpts released in advance of his speech, the former Utah Governor will  call for a pull back from the war in Afghanistan and the need to  “right-size our current foreign entanglements.”  But while trying to sound dove-like on Afghanistan, Huntsman will be quite hawk-like concerning Iran when he states;

“I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that,” Huntsman will say in his remarks today.

The speech also includes an uncharacteristically hawkish note from Huntsman, who says he would be willing to use U.S. military tools to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The bulk of the Huntsman foreign affairs and defense speech will outline a path to a policy that is designed to utilize  “more agility, more intelligence, and more economic engagement” in U.S. foreign policy, rather than “simply advocating more ships, more troops, and more weapons.”  That last part is a swipe at Mitt Romney who last week, set foreign affairs up to be the main topic in the Republican over the next few days, when he delivered his own foreign policy speech.  Tomorrow, Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to deliver his own major remarks on the issue.Bookmark and Share

For Huntsman, Any Bush is Better Than No Bush at All

George P. (Jeb Bush, Jr.)

Bookmark and Share   In what was rolled at by Jon Huntsman’s campaign as a “major” announcement in Florida, George Prescott Gallo Bush, today announced that he was formally endorsing Jon Huntsman for President and joining the campaign as it’s GenH Chairman. If you’re wondering which Bush is George Prescott Gallo Bush, you are also probably wondering why Huntsman considered this to be a major announcement.

The Bush we are talking about is commonly referred to as George P.  or Jeb Bush, Jr. and he already unofficially endorsed Huntsman..

Jeb P. is the oldest son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. and Columba Garnica Gallo, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico. He is one of the grandchildren that former President George H. W. Bush once infamously referred to as one of the “brown ones”.

If all of this has confused you as to which George and which Jeb is who, great!. That is exactly what Jon Huntsman is hoping for. All he really wants is for Republicans to know that a Bush endorsed him and hopefully when they connect the Florida announcement to a Bush, they assume it is the former Governor that endorsed him, not necessarily the son of the former Governor.

While Jeb, jr, is an admirable and more than respectable young man, his endorsement really does not carry much weight. But from Huntsman’s perspective, any Bush is better than no Bush. It is also the most notable, positive endorsement that Huntsman can get out of Florida. The popular rising star from the state, newly elected Senator Marco Rubio, has maintained that he is remaining neutral in the G.O.P. nomination contest. JGeorge P’s father, former Governor Jeb Bush, probably one of the most celebrated Bush’s of all in Republican circles at the moment, is unlikely to put his neck out for anyone right now, and Florida’s incumbent Governor, Rick Scott, is not the most popular figure in the Sunshine State at the moment. So Jeb P, Jr. is as close to major as Huntsman can get.

Still, if used right, the endorsement can get some mileage. Some.

If Jeb, Jr. is used specifically to get through to Florida’s youth vote and the conservative Hispanic population, of which there is a substantial one, then Huntsman’s campaign could at least play a factor in the Florida presidential primary. In any early realease of his announcement, in addition to endorsing Huntsman for President, Jeb P. declared:

“I will join Gov. Huntsman to formally endorse his candidacy, and accept a role as National Chairman of GenH – the campaign’s youth and young professionals outreach program. I will be joined by fellow Floridian Ana Navarro who will join the campaign as National Hispanic Chairperson.”

Currently Huntsman’s campaign is going nowhere. His numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire are dismal and stagnant. This does not mean that he can’t eventually get some traction but it does look like Huntsman is expecting not to get any traction any time soon. The focus on Jeb P. endorsement in Florida is probably a sign that Huntsman is prepared to surrender Iowa to Michele Bachmann, New Hampshire to Mitt Romney, South Carolina to either one of them and then to finally claim some ground in Florida.

That was the same strategy tried by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and today, he is still former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. So I do not expect much to be different for Jon Huntsman but I guess any strategy is better than no strate.

See here  for the complete text of Jeb P’s announcemnt.

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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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