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A Profile of Jon Huntsman, Jr.

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The former governor of Utah entered the race to be the GOP nominee with relatively low name recognition but before his declaration, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, he had spent weeks crisscrossing the nation in a ‘get to know me’ campaign.Photo by zennie62 via Flickr

Obama’s former ambassador to China has a strong track record of fiscal conservatism with a more moderate approach to social issues, however this may well be subject to change as he looks to improve his standing amongst the GOP grassroots members. As governor of Utah between January 2005 and August 2009, he oversaw substantial tax cuts of $400 million which led to the Pew Research Centre naming Utah the “Best Managed State” in the union and to the state being considered one of the top 3 best states to do business by Forbes.

Whilst he was governor he was also chairman of the Western Governor’s Association and was re-elected in 2008 with nearly 78% of the vote before resigning 18 months later to serve in the Obama administration as ambassador to China. Prior to his governorship, Huntsman also served in the administrations of three Republican presidents: Reagan, GHW Bush and GW Bush, both in the White House and latterly as ambassador to Singapore.

Jon Meade Huntsman, Jr. has eight siblings and is the eldest son of billionaire chemical company owner Jon Huntsman, Sr. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he served as a Mormon missionary for two years, which was perhaps the first of his associations with Asia. He himself has seven children, including two adopted daughters: one from India and one from China. Huntsman is also an avid fan of progressive rock music and is known to be fond of the band, Dream Theater.

He is a strong supporter of civil unions and supported legislation in Utah that would have allowed such legally recognized partnerships in the state. He is also an advocate for reducing greenhouse gases and on foreign policy believes in increasingly close mutual cooperation rather than alienation. His credentials on Asia, and particularly China, set him apart from the rest of the Republican field and are certainly a unique selling point. None of the other candidates can claim to have anywhere near the same experience of dealing with China which appears to be increasingly seen as an economic threat by main street Americans.

Huntsman’s candidacy brings a freshness to the GOP race and his international work and history of bipartisan service moulds him into a Republican leader who perhaps possesses a richer perspective than his rivals; a candidate who is better able to cast his net into the centre ground of American politics and catch the undecided voters, the arena where an election is won and lost.

However, the converse view of the candidacy may be that his moderateness is not true to the American values so treasured by the GOP grassroots and that his service under Obama means that he isn’t loyal. Huntsman’s ability to forge himself in the image of the former rather than the latter will decide whether he will be a serious contender come Super Tuesday, or be assigned to the scrapheap of nondescript primary challengers.

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