Jon Huntsman is starting to resurface as political talk grows that the former Utah governor and ambassador to China intends to make a second bid at the Republican presidential nomination.
Huntsman often appeared poised to break left or toward the center during the last election cycle, bashing his fellow Republicans for not believing in evolution or global warming. He has continued that trend in 2013, taking to the pages of The American Conservative to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
This week Huntsman received some national attention as he started making the rounds speaking at colleges and to businesses about domestic politics and international affairs, leaving some to speculate that he intends to run for the Republican nomination again. Pundits even hint that Huntsman is better positioned for the 2016 GOP nomination than he was last time out.
Huntsman, only 53, is also leaving the door open for a future presidential bid. He is telling various media outlets that he is considering another presidential campaign while noting how turned off many Americans are by the current political process.
As graduation draws near, Huntsman is making the rounds as a commencement speaker. Hell be speaking to graduates at the University of Washington in the weeks to come and, on Wednesday, Weber State University announced he will be offering Weber's commencement address.
Add to the mix an event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last month and speeches at Harvard, Duke, Georgetown, Princeton and other colleges this year, and its clear that Huntsman shows no signs of heading to the sidelines.
If he does run again in 2016, at least this time he has learned the value of a head start. Huntsman entered the last round of Republican presidential primaries in June 2011 fairly late in the game. At first he appeared to focus on Florida, bringing in Susie Wiles who had been Rick Scotts campaign manager and basing his campaign in Orlando. But, as the Presidency 5 straw poll drew near, he picked up stakes in Florida and focused on New Hampshire. A month after Huntsman announced he was entering the race, Wiles was out.
It was all downhill from there. Huntsman basically ignored Iowa, which returned the sentiment, giving him less than 1 percent in the caucus. He placed third in New Hampshire with 17 percent. Polls show only 10 percent of Republicans in New Hampshire backed Huntsman, meaning independent voters helped propel him in the open primary. A few days after his showing in New Hampshire, Huntsman announced he was leaving the race and threw his support behind Mitt Romney.
If he looks again at running for the White House in 2016, Jon Huntsman will be hoping recent patterns hold and the second time is the charm. When it comes to presidential candidates, Republican primary voters almost always choose familiar politicians who ran for the GOPs nomination before. Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan all fit this pattern. The only exception in recent years has been George W. Bush, who had one of the most bankable last names in the Republican Party.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.