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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

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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