Huntsman set to announce 2012 candidacy

Once a governor and President Obama's ambassador to China, the moderate Republican says he will join the race next week.

    Huntsman looks to bring into the 2012 presidential race his expertise on China [Reuters]

    Jon Huntsman, a former governor of the US state of Utah, has said he will announce his bid for the White House next Tuesday.

    A moderate Republican and an expert on China, Huntsman joins the crowded race to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

    "I intend to announce that I will be a candidate for the presidency a week from today," Huntsman said on Tuesday.

    The formal announcement of his candidacy will be made on June 21 near the Statue of Liberty, a source close to Huntsman said.

    Huntsman, 51, is one of the few Republican hopefuls who worries Obama's re-election team, though his name recognition across the country is low.

    Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he upset the White House in April by quitting his job as ambassador in Beijing to return to the US and plan his election campaign.

    If he picks up support in the polls, Huntsman could be a rival to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, for the role of the moderate Republican candidate.

    Political recognition

    Huntsman left his governorship in August 2009 with sky-high approval ratings and a reputation for fiscal conservatism, but his more moderate views on social issues could make his path to winning the Republican nomination difficult.

    Familiarity with voters is also a problem.

    A recent look by the University of New Hampshire's survey centre showed Huntsman favored by only 1 per cent of voters in the state, which has an early February primary that can help a candidate build momentum.

    Seventy-one per cent of those polled had never heard of him, despite Huntsman campaigning there.

    Huntsman was absent from the first major Republican debate on Monday, where Romney was seen to have performed well.

    So far, Huntsman has been reluctant to criticise his fellow competitors, and he has painted his background in China as a strength.

    Track record

    Many conservative voters see his having worked in the Obama administration as a liability, and Obama himself has touted his work as a not-so-subtle way of highlighting those ties.

    Asked how that background would help him win the White House, Huntsman sounded out a likely campaign theme, saying the US had to fix its own economic and fiscal problems to compete.

    "Because ... we have a very weak economic core, we are less able to project the goodness and the power and the might of the United States," he said.

    "We sit diminished and discounted at the negotiating table and everybody knows that. So if you want a strong US-China relationship, I would argue that we probably have a little bit of work here in our own backyard."

    Congressional Republicans and Democrats are currently negotiating ways to bring down the US deficit and reduce federal spending, talks that are being watched by investors worldwide.

    Huntsman dropped out of high school to play in a rock band.

    He learned to speak Chinese while on a Mormon mission to Taiwan during his college years.

    He and his wife Mary Kaye Cooper have seven children.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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