Ex-China ambassador to announce presidential bid

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was formally entering the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, just months after stepping down as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China.

By (AP)

Published: Tue 21 Jun 2011, 7:38 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:38 PM

Huntsman, with an unusual political resume and sometimes centrist views, is considered a long-shot to prevail in the wide-open Republican race. But he is seen as a candidate to be feared by Obama should he break out of the pack.

Huntsman was announcing his candidacy at Liberty State Park in New Jersey with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. It’s the same place where Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy in 1980.

In prepared remarks, Huntsman called the condition of America “totally unacceptable,” and is promising new jobs, energy independence and a simpler tax code.

“For the first time in our history, we are about to pass down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got,” Huntsman said in excerpts released ahead of the speech.

Huntsman’s moderate stance on some issues and his service in the Democratic Obama administration could work against him in the Republican primaries, where conservative voters dominate, even though he also has worked for three Republican presidents.

But he would potentially make a tough opponent for Obama, possibly attracting moderates and independents who often swing races. He can rely on his vast personal fortune to help finance his campaign.

As a former ambassador, Huntsman has some of the strongest foreign policy credentials in the Republican race. In Beijing, Huntsman prodded the Chinese on human rights and worked to expand U.S. engagement with the growing economic powerhouse.

Democrats may have thought that putting Huntsman to work for Obama effectively took him out of the 2012 political equation, but that appears to have been a flawed assumption.

As he starts his campaign, the 51-year-old Huntsman ranks in single digits in polls of Republican voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is seen as the early front-runner. Other candidates are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former pizza company entrepreneur Herman Cain, congressman Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Other big-name Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have not said if they will enter the race.

Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon and his faith could be a liability. A Gallup poll released Monday found that one in five Americans said they would not vote for their party’s nominee for president if that person was a Mormon.

As Utah governor, Huntsman supported legislation to deal with climate change and backed civil unions for gay couples, positions that angered the solidly conservative Republican base but had little impact on his overall popularity.

Still, he was re-elected with 75 percent of the vote in 2008 in the solidly conservative state. He resigned as governor less than a year later when Obama tapped him to serve as his ambassador to Beijing. He learned to speak Mandarin while on a Mormon mission to Taiwan.

Any Republican nominee will face a daunting challenge from Obama, an incumbent who remains popular in the polls and may raise as much as $1 billion for his re-election campaign. However, Obama could be vulnerable if the U.S. economy fails to improve.

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