Huntsman debuts in St. Pete

So who is Huntsman? He's relatively young (51), good looking, has foreign policy credentials (as Obama's ambassador to China and previously George H.W. Bush's ambassador to Singapore), and has executive experience, having been elected twice to serve as the Governor of Utah (though he left after less than his second year in office in 2009 to take up the President's request to serve in China).

In other words, he sounds like an ideal candidate - though until the past few days, nobody in America had ever really heard him speak. Charisma matters, after all.

Over the weekend, Huntsman gave a commencement speech in South Carolina, one of the first states that will be voting in next year's presidential primaries. But speaking last night at the home of James MacDougald was perhaps the first time he spoke in the presence of a political reporter about his candidacy.

"I never thought I'd be standing in somebody's living room with my Florida better half talking about these things,'' he confessed. "This is a surreal moment, I've got to tell you that. Normal people don't just wake up in the morning and say I think it'd be a good idea to run for president of the United States."

Now for his negatives. Not to stoke religious bigotry, but he's Mormon, which was something of an issue when Mitt Romney first ran four years ago. But more importantly, he worked for Barack Obama, which might be his death knell in a GOP primary.

Interestingly, conservative blogger and CNN talking head Erick Erickson's bashing him, not for working for the President, but for "plotting" to run against his former boss, thus showing his lack of patriotism.

In any case, he looks like he's running, and is now hiring staffers from other would be campaigns, like Haley Barbour's.

As Smith notes in his article, the White House has always thought Huntsman had the right stuff to be a serious challenger against Obama - which is undoubtedly a strong reason the President offered him a job in his administration (a similar strategy was employed against the only possible Democrat who could plausibly run against him in 2012, Hillary Clinton).

There's still well over a year before the Republicans last primary election will take place, meaning that Huntsman has plenty of time to introduce himself to the American public, and more specifically, GOP primary voters. Does he have a chance? Who knows what mood that Tea Party infused party has in mind next year. To some observers Newt Gingrich looks like old news, but others think it's his time.


Jon Huntsman, the former Governor of Utah and until last week the U.S. Ambassador to China, is contemplating a full fledged run for President in what has been derided as a lackluster class of GOP candidates.

A relative unknown nationally except amongst political junkies, Huntsman spoke last night in Snell Isle in St. Petersburg, as exclusively reported by St. Pete Times political editor Adam C. Smith.

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