Huntsman has an impressive resume, having worked under four different presidents : He worked as a White House staff assistant for Ronald Reagan, and he was appointed by George H.W. Bush as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and later as United States Ambassador to Singapore from 1992-1993. Huntsman served as Deputy United States Trade Representative under George W. Bush, launching global trade negotiations in Doha, Qatar in 2001 and guiding the accession of China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization.
He then ran for governor in Utah and won in 2004. In 2008, he won re-election easily, getting 78 percent of the vote. Shortly thereafter, officials with the Obama transition team, no dummies, worried that this Huntsman guy could be trouble in 2012, and asked him if he would serve the important role as ambassador to one of America's greatest competitors, China. Speaking fluent Mandarin, Huntsman said yes to the President and left Utah.
Now he's surprised the D.C. establishment by quitting the China gig and now running against his former boss. And the fact that he worked for a Democrat - especially one so loathed by the GOP establishment as much as Obama - will definitely be one of many problems he'll have to navigate in his bid for the nomination, such as this comment from former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (who is hinting that he might still get into the race himself) in the National Review:
“I continue to believe in the Eleventh Commandment,” he says, referring to Ronald Reagan’s maxim not to criticize fellow Republicans. “But I will say this, unequivocally: I would not work in Barack Obama’s administration.”
Bolton wonders why Huntsman, if he is a conservative, decided to accept the president’s appointment. “There is no patriotic obligation to help advance the career of a politician who is otherwise pursuing interests that are fundamentally antithetical to your values. That’s not the call of patriotism,” he says. “I don’t understand it. This is not like World War II, when we are facing an existential threat to the country as a whole, and you do put partisanship aside.”
Huntman is also going to start getting blowback from the media about his father's chemical company, the Huntsman Corp., which had a Tehran based subsidiary selling that sold polyurethane that could be used in solid fuel for Iranian missiles, among other things.
As Politico reports, it's not as if Huntsman was directly involved with what the Huntsman Corp., was doing.
Huntsman, 51, placed his company assets in a blind trust in 2004 while he was running for governor of Utah, and divested himself completely the next year. The Iranian subsidiary did nothing illegal — though many other U.S. companies long ago shut down their Iranian operations in protest of the country’s regime.
“It took them a little while, but they did the right thing and we applaud them for it,” Mark Wallace, UANI’s president and a former George W. Bush administration official, told POLITICO. “There are companies who still haven’t done the right thing.”
There's also the case of his religion - he's a Mormon. That was definitely an issue (though how important an issue is unclear) for Mitt Romney in 2008. And according to a Gallup poll released on Monday, it's still an issue. As recounted in the L.A. Times:
About one in five Republicans, or 18%, said they would not vote for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church. About the same proportion of independents said they would oppose a Mormon while a larger number of Democrats, about 27%, said they were opposed.
Back to his speech, he sounded like the other GOP candidates who are less war enthusiastic than at any time in any recent election, saying, ""It's not that we wish to disengage from the world, don't get me wrong. Rather we believe that our best long term national security strategy is rebuilding our core here at home."
Huntsman will now travel to several states over the next few days, including to Orlando later this week. That's where he's basing his national campaign - his wife is from the area, and obviously Florida is a huge state in the next year's presidential primaries - whenever the state actually hosts its primary (a committee has been set up to pick a date, not expected to be before March of 2012).