Can Jon Huntsman Connect with GOP Voters?

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WASHINGTON -- A new candidate has entered the GOP presidential field and the most recent reference on his resume is President Obama.

Jon Huntsman is a former ambassador to China and Utah governor. He brings impressive experience to the race but can he connect with voters?

The visuals and location were unmistakable -- U.S. flags, family, and standing in the exact spot where Ronald Reagan stood when he began his run for the White House.

"We're not just choosing new leaders. We're choosing whether we are to be yesterday's story or tomorrow's. Everything is at stake," Huntsman told the audience.

Huntsman, a former ambassador, plans to position himself as the consummate statesman in the race, vowing to not tear down his opponents or the president himself.

"I respect the president of the United States. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love," he said. "But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is, who will be the better president? Not who's the better American."

Huntsman brings a thick resume to the contest. As Utah's governor, he cut taxes, balanced budgets, and signed three big pro-life bills, including one that made second trimester abortions illegal.

During an interview with CBN News, he stressed that social issues would not be forgotten in a Huntsman administration.

"Social issues are the gel that binds us as people. That's the gel that keeps generation after generation together," he said.

But that gel can be sticky. For example, Huntsman supports civil unions, which may not play well with evangelical voters.

He also worked for the Obama administration as the ambassador to China. Huntsman touts that experience saying it puts him in the best position to navigate the global economy.

While some conservatives grumble about his time on the other side, sources inside the administration have admitted Huntsman might give the president a run for his money.

"Do you think the Obama administration might be a little concerned about running against you?" CBN News asked.

"I don't know that I believe it," he replied. "To the extent that I might be in a position to define and talk about the issues better than others? That might give rise to such talk, but I'll have to consult the experts on that."

Although he's an unknown, Huntsman's intimate knowledge of China as a world power sets him apart from the bigger names.

CBN News pressed the former Chinese ambassador to say something in Mandarin Chinese and then translate it for the audience.

"I basically said it's a pleasure to be with you and although we have some challenges today, America will continue forward as the greatest country in the world," he translated.

Huntsman's challenge now is taking his skill set and translating it into victory.

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CBN News
David Brody

David Brody

CBN News Chief Political Correspondent

David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at