In a Newsweek interview, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., was coy about the possibility of a run against Barack Obama for the presidency in 2012.
“You know, I’m really focused on what we’re doing in our current position,” he told the magazine. “But we won’t do this forever, and I think we may have one final run left in our bones.”
He declined to comment on the question of a 2012 campaign against Obama, who named Huntsman the U.S. ambassador to China in 2009.
Newsweek called the comment a “winking response—about as close to a hat-in-ring announcement as you’ll get from a sitting member of the incumbent’s administration.”
The magazine said the former governor has a “nuanced approach to Republican politics.”
“Warning that the party was losing young voters, [Huntsman] argued that Republicans would need to tack to the middle on three hot-button issues if they were to maintain national relevance: immigration, gay rights and the environment.”
The presidential trial balloon has many gay and lesbian pundits talking, especially in light of his stated support for Equality Utah’s “Common Ground Initiative” and same-sex civil unions.
“Given the current field of would-be GOP candidates, a bid by Huntsman might make sense — he has conservative credentials but is not batshit crazy like many of his would-be opponents,” said Bilerico Project blogger Michael Hamar. “Like Mitt Romney, Huntsman (should he run) will have the challenge of overcoming his Mormon faith with the lunatic Christianist of the GOP base.”
Utah Log Cabin Republicans President Melvin Nimer said there is a lot of speculation and few real answers on who may run on the GOP ticket next year. He also said that a potential Huntsman bid would largely be determined by how Obama works with the new GOP majority in the U.S. House.
“If [Obama] continues building bridges and finding a good compromise, then I think it would be foolish for Huntsman to run in 2012. Better to wait until the 2016 race,” Nimer said. “However, if the president does what he usually does and tries to play hardball with the economy, health care, immigration, etc., then the game is wide open and the ambassador would have a strong chance of winning.”
As for gay and transgender issues, Nimer feels Huntsman would be a better choice than many potential hopefuls.
“As for LGBT issues, I think that Huntsman would actually be able to do a much better job at bringing about real change than any other GOP contenders or the president,” he said. “Having lived in so many different parts of the world, he has a much broader experience base than anyone else, especially when it comes to LGBT issues. That’s why he came out in support of the Common Ground initiatives and civil unions. If he runs, Log Cabin will certainly support him wholeheartedly, and I believe that most of the LGBT community would also.”
Huntsman is even lauded by liberal gay Utah activist Jim Dabakis.
“Jon Huntsman would make a great president, best of the Republican lot by far,” he said.