Jon Huntsman to launch presidential campaign at Liberty State Park next week [Updated]
[Updated, 11:25 a.m. June 14: Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and President Obama’s first ambassador to China, will launch his bid to unseat the president next week, he announced Tuesday.
Speaking in New York at a forum on China with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Huntsman said he’ll announce his candidacy “a week from today.” Sources close to the Republican say the kickoff event will take place at Liberty State Park, followed by a campaign swing through key early-voting states.]
Huntsman has been testing the waters for a national campaign since returning from Beijing in April. His entry, planned for June 21, would expand the field and give nominal frontrunner Mitt Romney fresh competition as the Republican nomination battle heats up.
The choice of Liberty State Park, just across the New York harbor from lower Manhattan, is a nod to Ronald Reagan, the last Republican to defeat a sitting Democratic president, who kicked off his general election campaign there in 1980.
Sarah Palin also visited the Statue of Liberty during her recent “One Nation” bus tour.
Following the announcement in New Jersey, Huntsman will travel directly to New Hampshire, the first primary state. The following day he’ll campaign in South Carolina, home of the first Southern primary. On June 23 he’ll stop in Florida, where he’ll base his campaign.
The tour will end with stops in Utah and Nevada on June 24.
As he has moved toward an official candidacy, Huntsman has stepped up criticism of his former boss, telling CNN on Sunday that Obama “failed on the economic front.”
“You look at unemployment, you look at the environment in which jobs supposedly can be created — when you look at the debt level and you look at all the economic indicators, it would suggest that we’re in bad shape,” he said.
But Huntsman has a tough road ahead as he begins his campaign. A new USA Today/Gallup poll found him with support of just 1% of Republican and GOP-leaning independents.
He recently announced he would not compete in the leadoff Iowa caucuses, saying he is opposed to federal agricultural and ethanol subsidies. He denied his Mormon faith was a factor in the decision.
Huntsman had just been sworn in to his second term as governor of Utah when Obama tapped him to be his ambassador to China in 2009. Huntsman was ambassador to Singapore under President George H. W. Bush.