Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Profile: Jon Huntsman, Jr.

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 Clint Dunaway via Picasa
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 the Pew Research Centre naming the “Best Managed State” in the Union and Utah considered in 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. Huntsman has also served in the administrations of three Republican presidents – Reagan, GHW Bush and GW Bush – prior to his Governorship both in the White House and latterly as Ambassador to Singapore.

Jon Meade Huntsman, Jr. is the eldest son of billionaire chemical company owner Jon Huntsman, Sr. and has eight siblings. Being 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 know to be fond of the band Dream Theater.

He is a strong supporter of civil unions and in 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 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 that perhaps possesses a richer perspective than his rivals. A candidate that 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 assigned to the scrapheap of nondescript primary challengers.

Article first published as A Profile of Jon Huntsman, Jr. on Blogcritics.