Huntsman: 'Things are moving pretty quickly'
May 6th, 2011
05:01 PM ET
4 years ago

Huntsman: 'Things are moving pretty quickly'

Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) - Former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman spoke to reporters Friday for the first time since returning home from Beijing last week to explore a possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

And according to Huntsman, he could be moving from "possible" to "official" very soon.

"I wouldn't want to suggest that there is a timeline other than to say that things are moving pretty quickly," he told a handful of reporters in Columbia after meeting with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. "Whatever timeline one is looking at can't be more than a couple months."

Huntsman, who was twice elected governor of Utah before President Obama appointed him to the China post in 2009, said he and his family are "seriously considering our options and taking a good serious look at maintaining some level of activity in public service."

Huntsman arrived in the South Carolina capital on Friday for a series of meetings with local Republicans and to deliver a commencement speech to the University of South Carolina on Saturday.

He also added a Saturday visit to Charleston to meet with GOP leaders there.

But his first order of business was to meet with Haley, who plans to endorse a candidate and has been meeting with each Republican presidential contender as they pass through the early primary state.

Huntsman met with Haley in her office for half an hour and discussed China's role in the world economy.

"We talked about the view from Beijing, which really causes one to reflect on 21st century competitiveness," he said. "The 21st century is going to be about economic competition, make no mistake about it. The view from 10,000 miles away would suggest that unless your economic house is in order, you're largely going to be irrelevant. So we had a discussion about shoring up your economic fundamentals. We did that as governor. She is doing that here."

Advisers to Huntsman's potential rivals argue that a former Obama appointee who took moderate positions on same-sex civil unions and climate change stands little chance at winning the GOP nomination.

Huntsman, though, said "there is always room for a new voice."

"America is about remaking yourself, it's about innovation, it's about new ideas," he said. "It's never about yesterday, it's always about tomorrow. To the extent that people are concerned about where we are in terms of the economy and our relative position abroad, absolutely, people are looking for a new set of eyeballs."

Huntsman was accompanied by a clutch of aides, including top advisers John Weaver, Richard Quinn, Matt David and Lanny Wiles.

He and his wife Mary Kaye were escorted through the state capitol complex by former South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who lent Haley a key endorsement during her campaign and remains close to the governor.

After the meeting, Huntsman was asked if he prefers the honorific of "governor" or "ambassador."

"Since I'm called everything at home, you can call me anything," he answered. "But probably Jon is best."


Filed under: 2012 • Jon Huntsman • South Carolina
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Oregon Calling

    I would have waited had I been him. Now he will be know as an also ran.................

    Peace :-)

    May 6, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  2. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Who?

    Exactly.

    May 6, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. NYC REPUB

    Obama/Biden 2012!!!

    May 6, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. kayla

    yeh mr. huntsman, you should have waited after president obama, the next 4 years. you don't stand a chance

    May 6, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Mtnjim

    He's too reasonable, doesn't stand a chance.

    May 6, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    Huntsman may not be a household name, but he may become one by default because the rest of the field remains as uninspiring as it is now. As a former Ambassador to China, he should have the skills to avoid verbal gaffs and avoid catching the foot in the mouth Palin disease.

    May 6, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  7. TEM

    He isn't as offensive as the rest of the GOP therefore he has no chance of getting the nomination. Is he Mormon? I can't believe the church would let two Mormon's run at the same time, they would surely cancel each other out.

    May 6, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. TEM

    Remember that 29% of Republican voters said they would not vote for a candidate that said the President was born in the US. I think this might be a problem for him since he worked for the Pres.

    May 6, 2011 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. T'sah from Virginia

    This is Huntsman's way of "feeling" the field. He would most likely be a better candidate in 2016. All the Democrats have to do is LINK him to President Obama and the Repubs are NOT going to vote for him..... By the way – he's already LINKED!!

    May 6, 2011 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  10. ps

    Sadly, the American electorate typically gives zero credit for foreign policy experience, and really tends to view it with suspicion. Add that to the "race to the bottom" tea party primary that is coming up, and his political future doesn't look too bright.

    On the other hand, this is a nice setup for a book deal and TV commentary contract... the american dream!

    May 6, 2011 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. GI Joe

    He's going to waste his time running in 2012. Oh wait, it will be good practice to beat Jeb BUSH in 2016. tee hee heee heeee

    May 6, 2011 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. OneMoreTime

    "There's always room for a new voice"–not if you are in the Tea Party. Did he kiss Queen Haley's ring and bow
    before her.

    May 6, 2011 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  13. ST

    Who is going to campaign for this man. He is too shy. He is little known and to win people will be the uphill battle!

    May 6, 2011 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  14. Oy Vey Az

    Great choice! China loves Huntsman. Why I bet if elected president of the US then the Chinese Premier would make Huntsman the first territorial governor of America. Do ya'll speak Chinese yet ??

    May 6, 2011 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  15. Al-NY,NY

    Advisers to Huntsman's potential rivals argue that a former Obama appointee who took MODERATE positions on same-sex civil unions and climate change stands little chance at winning the GOP nomination.
    --------------------------------------–
    Don't bother. You can't win because you are not "pure" enough for the American version of the NSDAP (look it up)

    May 6, 2011 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  16. Republican Robber Baron

    One of the extremely rare Republicans with class that actually respects the President and says positive things about Obama.
    Too bad the GOP establishment prefers to let the Neo-Confederate extremists hj-jack the party and choose the nuts instead.

    May 6, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  17. Aaron

    He had a shot, at it by looking sane, but now he's talking to Tea Party loons. Another one will be flying over the cuckoo's nest.

    May 6, 2011 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |