Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jon Huntsman


Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, joins the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination with a distinct, if awkward, qualification: He worked for the other side.
As ambassador to China for two years under President Barack Obama, he has arguably the most foreign policy expertise of the Republican field.
But it remains to be seen whether or not that experience - which he defends as loyal service to the country, rather than the president's policies - will be an advantage to Mr Huntsman in his bid to succeed the man who appointed him.
Jon Huntsman, 51, is the motorcycle-driving son of billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr, who founded a large chemical manufacturer.
He dropped out of high school to play keyboard in a rock band, later finishing school and graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. He also served as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, and is said to speak fluent Mandarin.
After university, Mr Huntsman worked as an aide in President Ronald Reagan's White House, and while still in his early 30s, President George Bush Sr appointed him ambassador to Singapore (media reports on his nomination noted the Huntsman company and family's active role in Republican party fundraising).
Early speculation
Later, he served as a trade official under President George W Bush, and ran the Huntsman family's holding company.
In 2004, he ran for governor of Utah promising to simplify the state's tax code, develop industry and reform the state's Mormon-inspired alcohol restrictions. He was elected governor with 58% of the vote.
After his re-election in 2008 with 78% of the vote, he began meeting national political consultants and his name began to surface in discussions about the Republican party's prospects for the 2012 race.
David Plouffe, who managed Mr Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, said Mr Huntsman was "the one person in that party who might be a potential presidential candidate".
In May 2009, Mr Obama nominated Mr Huntsman to be ambassador to China. Some analysts said the new president was trying to neutralise a potential political rival, but others said Mr Obama was being true to his campaign-trail calls for bipartisanship.
'Loyalty to country'Towards the end of 2010, Mr Huntsman told Newsweek magazine he thought he and his family "may have one final run left in our bones", and a group of consultants and supporters back in the US sprang into action building a campaign.
Mr Huntsman returned from Beijing in April, and less then a month later began travelling to New Hampshire, another key early primary election state, to gauge his appeal.
When pressed on his tenure under Mr Obama - his most immediate weakness - he has insisted he went out of loyalty to his country, not to a president or his policies.
"I did serve President Obama," he said in May. "I served my president, my president asked me to serve, in a time of war, in a time of economic difficulty in this country. I'm the kind of person, when asked by my president to stand up and serve my country, when asked, I do it."
After spending most of the past two years out of the country - while his Republican rivals were building networks of supporters and raising their public profiles - polls suggest Mr Huntsman has some way to go to catch up.
Recently, he has polled less than 2%, at the bottom of the Republican field, and polls have suggested most Republican primary voters do not even know who he is.
Mr Huntsman is also a member of the Mormon church - a religious group viewed with suspicion by some evangelical Christians.
He has also taken some positions seen as too moderate for the conservative voters influential in the Republican primary process. He supports civil unions for same-sex couples and believes in the science behind global climate change.

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