At least he didn't ride a motorcycle to the event. To the surprise of no one, former Ambassador Jon Huntsman threw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for president for 2012. Huntsman, from a podium in New Jersey, with the
June 21, 2011

At least he didn't ride a motorcycle to the event. To the surprise of no one, former Ambassador Jon Huntsman threw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for president for 2012.

Huntsman, from a podium in New Jersey, with the Statue of Liberty in the background, announced on Tuesday that he would join the race to take on his old boss for the White House next year.

Confirming his intention to seek the nomination, he criticised the president's record and, in contrast with his time as ambassador when he projected American strength, portrayed the US as vulnerable.

"For the first time in our history, we are passing down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got. This, ladies and gentlemen, is totally unacceptable and totally un-American," he said.

Huntsman, 51, could be a formidable presidential candidate, given his experience in foreign affairs and as a former governor of Utah. But many Republicans cannot forgive the fact that he served in the Obama administration.

Or that he's spoken warmly of the Obama administration in the past. Hard to escape video proof, innit?

There are perhaps hints that the Huntsman campaign may not be as ready for prime time as they would like to believe. First that inexplicable "motorcycling-through-the-desert-I'm-not-a-Wizard" ad teasing his campaign announcement. And then his campaign staff misspells Huntsman's own name in the accompanying press release announcing his candidacy. Oops.

But beyond bizarre ads and campaign workers unfamiliar with their boss' name, in order to have a snowball's chance in hell of capturing the interest of the wacko wing of the Republican party, he's going to have to veer hard right and step away from not only his praise of Obama, but of his personal support of some of the least popular aspects of "Obamacare":

There has been much reporting of the fact that as Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman held a favorable view of the individual mandate, the health insurance coverage requirement that has compelled conservatives to call the president's effort unconstitutional.

The bill ultimately passed in Utah did not include the provision. But it was, as The Huffington Post's Jason Cherkis reported, dropped not because Huntsman personally opposed the idea but because political realities in Utah compelled him to do so.

Huntsman, as a 2007 interview shows, more than just considered a mandate. He supported one publicly. According to a transcript, the then-governor said, " I think if you’re going to get it done and get it done right, [a] mandate has to be part of it in some way, shape, or form."

The former governor, who on Tuesday announced he was running for president, has since sought to sweep that moment under the rug. In a video accompanying his formal announcement, the narrator pointedly criticized the idea that individuals should be mandated to purchase health care coverage.

And his family's work with the government of Iran:

Shortly after Jon Huntsman began his tour as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China, an unwelcome letter from an anti-Iran nuclear watchdog group arrived at Huntsman Corp., the chemical company founded by his father.

The bluntly worded missive singled out a Tehran-based subsidiary — purchased when Huntsman worked for the company — for selling polyurethane that could be used in solid fuel for Iranian missiles, among other things.

“How can it be that Ambassador Huntsman could persuade the Chinese government to impose further economic sanctions on Iran when his namesake former company continues to do business in Iran?” read the letter from United Against a Nuclear Iran, a nonpartisan group founded by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke and veteran Mideast envoy Dennis Ross.

In response to Huntsman announcing his presidential candidacy Protect Your Care Communications Director Eddie Vale issued the following statement:

“As Huntsman stands by the Statue of Liberty one can only hope that none of the tired, poor or huddled masses were counting on having Medicare because Huntsman has said he would sign the Republican budget that ends it. Huntsman’s attempt to stand in the shadow of Lady Liberty’s history only serves as a dark reminder of how callous it is to attempt to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.

“What happened to the Huntsman that used to praise Obama, support his health care plan and endorse the individual responsibility provision? It has only been a few weeks since Huntsman returned from China but he has certainly quickly shown a Manchurian candidate like ability to change his positions in an attempt to woo the tea party.”

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