Huntsman says near White House campaign decision

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 14, 2011 12:19 AM
Huntsman says near White House campaign decision

By Ros Krasny

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, on a third trip to New Hampshire in a month, on Saturday said he would announce a decision on running for president soon, after one last discussion with his family.

All the major elements of a campaign -- fund-raising, organization, and boots on the ground -- are in place for a final decision, Huntsman said during a stop at the Manchester, New Hampshire Harley-Davidson dealership.

"We need to check the family 'box,' to sit down with the family one last time," said the father of seven Huntsman, 51, who resigned in April as the U.S. Ambassador to China. "You will be hearing something shortly."

Huntsman will be absent on Monday from the first major debate of the election cycle, when seven White House hopefuls will square off in a nationally-televised event from Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Republican said that he did not originally qualify for the debate by reaching a certain threshold of support.

Huntsman's plan on Saturday for an afternoon of manly photo-opportunities -- riding a borrowed Hog to the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week rally -- was quashed by heavy rain.

"A meeting with some 75,000 riders is perfect for anyone who wants to get name recognition. But I've been a biker for 40 years. I love riding," said Huntsman, dressed in leather jacket, faded jeans and heavy boots.

Instead, he met with customers in a Concord sports bar and intended to head to Laconia by SUV.

Earlier, Huntsman, delivered an upbeat message on the need for economic renewal, and for the United States to be both competitive and compassionate. He got a warm reception in Nashua at the state VFW convention.

He emphasized his success in running Utah, which was named the best managed U.S. state by the Pew Center on the States during his tenure.

That was one of a number of veteran-oriented events Huntsman has held in New Hampshire, the key early voting state whose primary election will be held Feb 14, 2012.

He has also appeared at several house parties, pressing the flesh of several dozen interested citizens at a time. "I love the transparency of New Hampshire," Huntsman said.

Huntsman traveled with his wife Mary Kay and three of his seven children: daughters Mary Anne, Libby and Gracie.

One of Huntsman's challenges in the primary race is expected to be explaining his service in the administration of Democrat Barack Obama, who is disliked by many Republicans.

On Saturday, Huntsman framed his service in China in terms of patriotism, and touted his extensive experience in dealing with "our largest trading partner."

Name recognition will be another challenge in Huntsman's first run for national office.

As the Republican wandered through the Harley dealership, customer Richard Innie, 70, of Hookset, echoed the thoughts of many in wondering aloud, "Does anyone know who that was?"

(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Greg McCune)