COMMENTARY | Former governor of Utah and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman formally declared his presidential candidacy Tuesday in New York, according to the New York Times. Not your typical candidate, the Associated Press reports Huntsman is a Harley-riding high school dropout whose last boss just happens to be the current president. He’s a regular at a Salt Lake City taco cart, former aide to the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Mandarin-speaking Mormon missionary in Taiwan, musician, and current CEO of Hunstman Family Holdings.
With a resume that diverse, he should be a shoe-in for the nomination, except no one has heard of him — he currently polls in the low single digits among GOP candidates, according to AP. Can he still win the nomination?
Huntsman is nothing if not a moderate, possibly the most moderate in the current GOP field. He has supported climate change legislation and backed civil unions for gay couples, angering the GOP base. Democrat consultant Alex Slater claims that while Huntsman’s moderation “makes him an incredibly weak candidate in the GOP field,” Huntsman would be “the only candidate the White House fears” in a general election.
Diverse Executive Experience
In addition to serving as governor of Utah, Huntsman has also been president of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and CEO of Huntsman Family Holdings, the umbrella corporation for the multi-billion dollar corporation founded by his father. In a nod toward job creation and a thinly veiled jab at Mitt Romney’s experience running a leveraged buyout firm, the announcer in his campaign video talks about how Huntsman, at the head of the Huntsman Corporation, “built jobs, didn’t just buy them.”
Optimism and Civility
Huntsman is promising to run a civil campaign in a time of heated political rhetoric and partisanship. The candidate stated, “Our political debates today are corrosive and not reflective of the belief that Abe Lincoln espoused back in his day, that we are a great country because we are a good country.” Staying with that theme in his announcement speech, he declined to attack any of his GOP rivals, and, when speaking of Obama, said, “The question each of us wants the voters to answer is, ‘Who will be the better president, not who’s the better American.'” Huntsman also channeled Reagan’s optimism when speaking about a less powerful, less competitive America, saying “This, ladies and gentlemen, is totally unacceptable and it is totally un-American.”