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.
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.