Huntsman’s Service Might Not Hurt Candidacy

Tuesday, 01 Feb 2011 08:09 AM

By Hiram Reisner

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Resigning Ambassador to China John Huntsman’s (pictured) service in the Obama administration might not be an impediment to possible plans to seek the GOP nomination in 2012, but remains something he will have to shoulder, several analysts Monday told CNN’s John King. Huntsman, a former Utah governor, delivered a resignation letter to the White House Monday, disclosing his plans to leave his Beijing post effective April 30.

huntsman, service, obama, candidacy“You have you know word out there is that he's already put together an inner circle, the fact that there's probably going to be some outreach now to fundraisers,” said Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist, who was former Massachusetts Mitt Romney’s spokesman for his 2008 campaign. “And resigning your ambassadorship is probably a clear sign … that he's seriously thinking about it, so I'd expect to probably see an announcement very soon in the spring.”

John Avlon, a founding member of the centrist group No Labels, said Huntsman is the first candidate the White House is genuinely concerned about, and his less-than-conservative credentials probably would not be held against him.

“He could just end up being a spoiler for Mitt Romney. But nobody should doubt the ripples this is going to have throughout the race, not only in the GOP side of the field, but overall,” Avlon said. “His father is a very highly respected philanthropist through a lot of conservative circles and a mentor to a lot of conservative opinion-makers. So that's a very significant blunting force to those folks who might say he's too centrist for the GOP right now.”

Madden noted, however, that while Huntsman’s name is known in Washington, it is not that recognizable in the rest of the country, and his service to President Obama will be part of his public introduction – and this could be a cross he has to bear.

“And at a time where not many of these Republican activists, Republican voters in many of the mainly primary states are looking favorably upon the Obama administration, it's going to be something that he's going to have to shoulder,” Madden said.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said independents might be attracted to a Huntsman candidacy.

“While it may not play in the early primaries or caucuses, I think independent voters in others, in certain states where they can vote, he might be an attractive alternative to the hard right,” she said.

Avalon agreed, adding “Like all centrist candidates he's a better general election candidate than a primary candidate.

“The fact that he's worked with the administration, A, ensures a degree of civility in a campaign. And allows him to be somewhat above the fray with the uglier edges of the conservative populism that we've seen over the last two years,” Avalon said. “So, he's got the credentials, philosophically, and in terms of policy. But it allows him to take a different tact that a lot of folks in the center and independent voters, in particular, in a state like New Hampshire could find very refreshing.”

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