The Two Jon Huntsmans

Paul Blumenthal writes up the buzz around Jon Huntsman Jr.'s "pre-announcement" announcement ads and fundraisers.  The strategy is positioning himself as "cut from a different cloth," unorthodox, and moderate.

Today the Utah State Democratic Party, who found common ground with Huntsman as Governor on climate change -- a position Huntsman has recently reversed -- and civil unions, responded with an announcement of their own: Jon Huntsman "In 1 Day."

Huntsman's launching point might get him somewhere in a general election as a moderate, but I don't see how "unorthodox" and "cut from a different cloth" plays well to the ears of the average GOP primary voter.

And as the state Democrats point out, in the end there's nothing really new here.  Just another chameleon ready to do and say anything to win.

Jon Huntsman Gets Serious

CNN is reporting that former Utah Governor and soon to be our ex-Ambassador to the People's Republic of China Jon Huntsman is looking at making a serious run at the Presidency focusing his efforts on winning the South Carolina primary. According to CNN, Huntsman's advisers are planning to make a serious play for South Carolina, the early primary state that helped propelled Republican candidates like George W. Bush and John McCain to the GOP nomination.

The conservative-leaning state might seem like a curious place to make a stand for a Mormon ex-Obama administration official who supports same-sex civil unions, but his team is confident that South Carolina Republicans are hungry for a fresh face in a lackluster 2012 field.

“If he gets in the race, from everything I’ve heard, his plan would be to plant a flag in South Carolina,” said longtime Columbia-based strategist Richard Quinn, who helped John McCain win the state’s primary in 2008. “I really think we can win here.”

Quinn is working for Horizon PAC, Huntsman’s campaign-in-waiting, and will steer his presidential bid in South Carolina should the ambassador officially enter the race after his China post concludes on April 30.

He said New Hampshire and South Carolina – two of the four early states that allow independents to participate in their presidential primaries – “are ready for the arrival of a major new player.”

“I think moving from New Hampshire to South Carolina, that’s the traditional path,” Quinn said, mapping out Huntsman’s potential path to the nomination. “No disrespect to Iowa, but New Hampshire and South Carolina are two parts of a three part rocket, along with Florida.”

Huntsman, also a former Utah governor, will return to the United States just before the South Carolina Republican Party sponsors the first Republican presidential debate in Greenville on May 5, but his advisers are doubtful that he will participate.

Jon Huntsman would be a welcomed addition to the GOP field in 2012 if only to provide some adult supervision to that bevy of petulance. And while his chances may seem slim given the GOP electorate's penchant for the sheer insanity of unrepentant birtherism and other inanities, candidates like Jon Huntsman and Mitch Daniels would add some gravitas to the Barnum & Bailey spectacle that the Republican party has become. Without question, unlike the circus the GOP is not the greatest show on Earth despite its entertainment value. It does not serve well the country to have a major political party to simply fly off the rails. 

Still the question on my mind is who leaked the Huntsman love letters to President Obama and Bill Clinton?

Around the World

News from around the globe impacting your world.

Portugal Seeks Relief for Its Troubled Banks. The caretaker government of Socialist Prime Minister José Socrates announced he was asking for financing from the European Union on Wednesday, saying the risks to the economy had now become too great to go it alone as borrowing rates soared in recent weeks. More from Reuters.

China Levels Charges Against Dissident. Ai Weiwei, best known for designing the 'Bird's Nest' stadium for the 2008 Olympics, has been charged with "economic crimes" by Chinese authorities. The 53 year old artist was seized by border police Sunday at the Beijing airport as he prepared to board a flight to Hong Kong. He is the latest dissident detained in a series of arrests that began in February. Other high-profile dissidents held by Chinese authorities include Noble Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo and blind activist Chen Guangcheng. More from the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has called upon Beijing to ease its crackdown against political dissidents. Speaking on Sino-US ties at a function held in Shanghai Wednesday, Huntsman said there was room for improvement in bilateral diplomatic ties. He said US envoys to Beijing would continue to speak out publicly in support of dissidents activists Ai Weiwei and others. More on this side of the story from RTT News.

French Forces in Côte d'Ivoire Fighting. French forces hit military vehicles belonging to troops loyal to strongman Laurent Gbagbo during a helicopter-borne mission that rescued Japan's ambassador to the West African country today after Gbagbo's soldiers broke into the residence of Ambassador Yoshifumi Okamura. The full story in The Independent.

India Opens Talks with Japan. India and Japan today started an economic-strategic talks that promises to have important strategic ramifications regarding balancing China. More from The Times of India.

China's Bubble Economy. The Asia Sentinel examines the Chinese economy warning that an inevitable slowdown will affect the entire world – from commodity producers to governments issuing debt. The ramifications of a meaningful slowdown in Chinese economic activity are profound, ranging from the risk of widespread social instability to a collapse of several commodity markets.

Bank of England Holds Rate Steady. The Bank of England kept its benchmark interest rate at 0.5 percent, a record low for the 26th consecutive month, as policy makers judged the need to aid the recovery took precedence over the fastest inflation in more than two years. More from Bloomberg News.

Jon Huntsman Appointed Ambassador to China

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that Utah Governor and GOP moderate Jon Hunstman will resign from office to accept a nomination to become the ambassador to the People's Republic of China. Governor Huntsman who is fluent in Mandarin previously served as the US Ambassador to Singapore.

Sources tell The Salt Lake Tribune that an announcement is scheduled for Saturday. Huntsman is in Washington, D.C., but calls to his spokeswoman and various staffers were not returned Friday night.

Huntsman, who had been mentioned as a potential Republican contender for the White House, was nominated by President George H.W. Bush as ambassador to Singapore -- he was the youngest ambassador in over a century --- and later was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as Deputy United States Trade Representative. He was unanimously confirmed to both positions.

He speaks Mandarin Chinese and he and his wife, Mary Kaye, have adopted a daughter from China.

Huntsman had been scheduled to travel to China next week as part of a delegation of Western governors visiting the nation to discuss climate change, alternative energy and clean air technologies.

That trip was canceled due to concerns by some of the governors over the swine flu outbreak.

Huntsman will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert who would serve through 2010, at which time a replacement would be elected until 2012.

While Huntsman's name has often been bantered about as a possible GOP contender for the Presidency in 2012, I suspect that his chances in 2016 are stronger and this appointment in the long run bolsters his national security and international affairs credentials. It's a good move for Huntsman politically.

More from the New York Times.

There's more...

The One Plouffe Is Worrying About

Back in February, in a post entitled "The One I'm Worrying About," I wrote about the one potential member of the Republicans 2012 pack I thought might actually be able to give Barack Obama a difficult time: Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.

I don't agree with all of Huntsman's policy prescriptions -- they're all quite conservative -- but to the extent that he is actually speaking about issues that matter to the American people and offering proposals to address them, he clearly stands out from the majority of the Republican leadership this side of Newt Gingrich (who despite the attention lavished upon him remains an immensely unpopular figure).

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Huntsman may not be looking to run in 2012, so perhaps this is somewhat moot in the short run. But I do think we would be remiss if we weren't keeping an eye on him over the coming years -- particularly considering he's just 48 years old at present.

Apparently I'm not the only one keeping an eye on Huntsman.

There is one republican presidential candidate that President Barack Obama's campaign manager fears the most in 2012...and his name is Jon Huntsman Jr.

[...]

While no republican presidential candidate yet makes Obama's team "shake in {their} shoes...," President Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, now says Governor Jon Huntsman makes him, a "wee bit queasy...I think he's really out there speaking a lot of truth about the direction of the party."

A political scientist from Utah quoted in the article immediately above says that Huntsman is positioning himself in a "great place" because he has staked out a position as the moderate in the 2012 race, but I don't think that's quite right. As I wrote back in February with regards to Huntsman, and I wrote again over the weekend in eulogizing Jack Kemp, what the Republican party needs -- and what Huntsman is now doing to strong effect -- are politicians who have a positive vision of the country that extends beyond mere opposition to Barack Obama.

Ross Douthat writes along similar lines today in The New York Times (though he seems to think that a Bush-lackey like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the overly partisan Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, or the not-yet-ready-for-primetime Bobby Jindal could fill the role of the thoughtful conservative), so clearly some within the GOP are also thinking that their party needs what George H.W. Bush called the "vision thing."

I don't get the sense, however, that the whole party is there yet. No, the GOP by and large stands in a moment of retrenchment and denial, sticking with the out-of-touch strategies that have rendered the party with virtually no power in Washington today. Some day -- and it might not be until the party loses again, even a few more times -- Republicans will wake up and realize they need to change. And it's for that reason that I'm glad that someone as politically savvy as David Plouffe, who helped engineer Barack Obama's successful run for the Presidency, is keeping his eye on Huntsman.

There's more...

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