Jon Huntsman launches bid for President

Huntsman offers an optimistic pitch, but his religion and links to Obama could hurt him in the prima

Jon Huntsman has declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination. Against a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, the former US ambassador to China made his announcement to a smallish crowd of supporters and curious passers-by. His pitch, overall, was optimistic. "I'm from the American west, where the view of America is limitless with lots of blue sky," he declared.

Huntsman pointed to his record as Governor of Utah and - like Romney did in his first two campaign adverts - focused on the US's persistently high unemployment, which will undoubtedly play a major role in 2012.

We must reignite the powerful job creating engine of our economy - the industry, innovation, reliability, and trailblazing genius of Americans and their enterprises -- and restore confidence in our people.

We did many of these things in Utah when I was governor. We cut taxes and flattened rates. We balanced our budget. Worked to maintain our AAA bond rating. When the economic crisis hit, we were ready. And by many accounts we became the best state for business and the best managed state in America. We proved government doesn't have to choose between fiscal responsibility and economic growth. I learned something very important as Governor. For the average American family there is nothing more important than a job.

Unlike his fellow candidates during the first proper Republican debate, Huntsman did not attack Obama directly. The two have had many kind words to say about each other in the past. After one bout of praise, Obama sarcastically remarked:

I'm sure him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary.

To deal with this potential issue, however, Huntsman has pitched his candidacy as a civil one, one that will attempt to avoid cheap jibes.

I don't think you need to run down anyone's reputation to run for President. Of course we'll have our disagreements. I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the President. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President; not who's the better American.

Whether this will continue for long during the primaries - who will want to hear Obama's name kicked and spat upon by potential candidates - remains to be seen.

Huntsman's good relationship with Obama is not his only disadvantage, however. Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon candidate, which puts off many American voters - 22 per cent, in fact. Huntsman also starts with very low name recognition, according to the Gallup poll below.

Gallup, 21 June

Not even the right-wing press are that interested in him, according to Politico.

For all the attention Huntsman's gotten from the MSM, his profile in the conservative press has been considerably more muted. Unlike other potential Republican candidates, Huntsman didn't get cover stories in the Weekly Standard or National Review. Fox has mostly ignored him. He's taken some heat from talk radio, but far less than you might expect for a GOP candidate coming out of the Obama administration.

This will change in the first few weeks, but it could be difficult to gain traction without resorting to the cheap "money blurts" favoured by Michelle Bachmann and co.

On the whole, however, Huntsman is a credible candidate with a strong domestic record and - just as importantly - a vat of foreign policy experience, which he concentrates on in his first campaign video. He is a real contender in a Republican race sadly lacking in truly strong candidates. His entry will do the Republican race the world of good.

Watch his full speech below.

 

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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