Exeter, New Hampshire June 21, 2011
After a few weeks of quietly visiting several New Hampshire towns for several weeks, Jon Huntsman arrived in Exeter, NH, today as the latest official candidate to enter the 2012 Presidential Primary Race. Huntsman had announced his candidacy at Liberty Park in New Jersey, the same location that Ronald Regan announced his bid. And made Exeter his second stop in his first “candidate day” that ends tonight in Florida.
Huntsman’s arrival in Exeter was about two hours late but he and his family were greeted by a patient and hospitable crowd. His party apparently encountered some scheduling difficulties in attempting to depart the New York area in route to New Hampshire. His formal statement was brief, being about 10 minutes long. He was joined on the stage by his family, nine people including Huntsman.
In his statement, Huntsman promised his campaign will be a civil one that focuses on positive change and true leadership. He even espoused respect for President Obama, saying he respects him as an American but he disagrees on how to approach Americas problems. He stressed his campaign sentiment that we cannot allow this generation to be the first ever to pass along more of a mess to the next generation than we inherited.
As governor of Utah, Huntsman had a record of supporting pro-life legislation and he cut taxes. He was highly popular and in 2008 he won re-election with 78% of the vote. The Pew Center named Utah the best-run state in the U.S. during Huntsman’s tenure. He was respected enough to be chosen as ambassador to China by President Obama.
His “civil” campaign and record as being mostly a middle-of-the-road elected leader make Huntsman perhaps the easiest target of the entire primary slate for staunch social conservatives. Blogs and conversations overheard are heated with calls of “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and in at least one case after the Huntsman speech in Exeter overheard “He’s even more left than Romney!”. This reputation and the current Tea Party and social conservative activism may present the greatest short-term test of larger trends later in the election cycle. Huntsman will likely remain true to his experience and principles and that will likely place him front and center for harpoons, daggers, and other such metaphors from the far right.
It somehow seems unsettling that the ‘hard’ left will mostly likely join the ‘hard’ right in attempting to undermine Huntsman. The two extremes seemingly have not seen eye-to-eye on anything in so long that it seems unnatural. Shortly after Huntsman’s resignation as ambassador to China, President Obama made it a point to formally thank him for his service while including a few barbs intended to lessen his appeal to conservatives. Wayne Holland, chairman of Utah’s Democratic Party, was reported today by Alex Altman in Swampland to have held a conference call last night in which he accused Huntsman of attempting to run away from his record as a moderate governor and “pandering to what we call the ‘tinfoil-cap crowd’ of the Republican Party.”
Huntsman’s campaign is under way in earnest as of today and he and his staff are likely happy that Democrats are a little worried. Now the job at hand is to somehow convince enough of the conservatives that he is the real deal to survive the primary. If that happens, there would be plenty of time to take aim at the Democrats.