Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says he is closer to officially launching a presidential campaign, but he will not be participating in tonight’s Republican presidential debate — which prevents him from connecting with voters.
Huntsman is certainly expected to run and he needed to use the debate as a means of building up his name identification. One recent poll in Iowa of several hundred Republican voters showed him with the support of not 1 percent of the vote, but just one voter. If the former Utah governor is to have any chance at building a campaign he needed find a way to stand out in the debate, but his non-participation will make it difficult for him to climb the polls.
“We’re moving in that direction,” he told Bloomberg Television on Sunday when asked if he’s running. “We’ve got all the boxes checked — the organizing box, the fundraising box, you’ve got the boots on the ground box, and you’ve got the family box that is the last one. We’ll probably have one more sit down meeting this week, and then I think we’ll be ready to check that box.”
He also says pro-abortion President Barack Obama can be beaten in the general election campaign late next year.
“Absolutely,” he said. “With today’s economic backdrop and the difficulty that we’re finding in getting any traction at all in getting growth or taming our high unemployment.”
In a speech to the Faith and Freedom Conference recently, Huntsman touted his pro-life record and said there should be no truce on abortion when it comes to balancing social and economic issues.
“I do not believe the Republican party should focus only on our economic life — to the neglect of our human life,” he said. “That is a trade we should not make. If Republicans ignore life, the deficit we will face is one that is much more destructive. It will be a deficit of the heart and of the soul.”
The comments were part of a well-regarded talk at the Christian event that gave Huntsman, the former Utah governor, a chance to tout his pro-life record on abortion and talk about a personal adoption story that he believes could prompt pro-life voters to support his eventual campaign for the Republican nomination.
Huntsman told attendees, “I came today not to give a political speech, but to introduce you to myself and my family.”
But he talked about his pro-life record in a way that he hoped would endear him to social issues voters who may distrust the man who served as the ambassador to China in the Obama administration and who many voters see as too moderate to become the GOP nominee. Saying he “supported and signed every pro-life bill” he received, he talked about how he signed a trio of pro-life bills in February 2009 that the Utah legislature approved — including legislation to make second-trimester abortions illegal, a measure to allow women to know about the pain their unborn children will feel during an abortion, and a bill that would create a legal defense fund to pay for litigation related to lawsuit abortions advocates file against state legislation.
“As governor of Utah I signed every pro-life bill that came to my desk,” Hunstman told the crowd. “I signed the bill that made second-trimester abortions illegal, and increased the penalty for doing so. I signed the bill to allow women to know the pain an abortion causes an unborn child. I signed the bill requiring parental permission for abortion. I signed the bill that would trigger a ban on abortions in Utah if Roe v. Wade was overturned.”
Huntsman has also lived out his pro-life views in that he has seven children, two of whom were from international adoptions. He shared the story with the conference participants.
In 1999, the Huntsman family adopted Gracie Mei from Yangzhou, China. She was a little girl who had been abandoned in a vegetable market. The path to adoption began when Huntsman’s wife Mary Kaye volunteered in a Catholic orphanage while they were living in Tien Mu, Taiwan. After they returned to the U.S., Mary Kaye continued to research adoptions and convinced Jon to start the process.
While attending a Christmas tree benefit auction she bought a tree dedicated to adoption. When the vendor asked her what to name it, her kids suggested the name for the new sister they hoped to someday have, Gracie Mei. Mary Kaye told the vendor that name at 8:15 p.m. and, when the Huntsman family returned home, there was a message received at 8:15 p.m. from the adoption agency notifying the family they had a found a child for the family.
“Gracie Mei likes to tell that story and when asked who found her in the vegetable market, she simply replies Jesus,” said Huntsman to “awws” and applause. He continued, “There is something more essential than politics and that is life, specifically a child’s life.”
“I can’t imagine how much poorer the world would be without Gracie and her younger sister Asha, who’s adopted from India. … [My wife] Mary Kay and I give thanks to those two mothers … for valuing their daughters lives enough so they could become our daughters,” he said.
The Huntsmans also adopted Asha Bharati from Gujarat, India in 2006.