Tampa, Florida (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Sunday that winning Florida is “critically important” to his campaign, saying the early primary state will decide the GOP nominee for president.
“Somewhere between Orlando and Tampa, the great I-4 corridor, there’s gonna be a lot of important campaigning, a lot of connecting with the people of Florida, and ultimately I believe the decision made that will determine the next nominee of the Republican Party, and I do believe the next president of the Unite States,” Huntsman told reporters after a 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Tampa Firefighters’ Museum.
On Monday, Sept. 12th, CNN will broadcast the "Tea Party Republican Debate," live from Tampa, Florida at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news leading up to the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter.
Huntsman chose Orlando for his presidential campaign headquarters, partly - he has said - because his wife Mary Kaye is from the area, and partly because winning state’s primary is crucial to his campaign strategy.
Huntsman also said he is looking forward to the CNN/Tea Party Express presidential debate Monday in Tampa, and said he intends to focus on the economy and job creation.
“These are always good opportunities to have a conversation with the American people, to talk about the issues that really do matter,” Huntsman said.
“There’s a great human tragedy out there in our country with 14 million unemployed and millions and millions who are so dispirited they’ve given up looking.”
The former governor and ambassador also reflected on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, recounting that as U.S. trade ambassador to Vietnam, he was separated from his family and “trying to make sense of it 10,000 miles away.”
But Huntsman said the somber anniversary is also an opportunity “to be reminded what is great about this country.”
“This country is better and stronger because we’ve pulled together. We have to remember that theme of unity as well because when this nation pulls together as it did 10 years ago in the aftermath of 9/11, no one can stop us,” Huntsman said.