ST. PETERSBURG - Maybe what it takes to shake up the humdrum Republican presidential contest is a super-rich foreign policy ace who rides a Harley, cuts taxes and supported legislation to allow civil unions for gay couples.
Meet Jon Huntsman Jr., diplomat and Utah's reform-minded former governor, whose potential as a presidential candidate has long worried Barack Obama's advisers. Fresh off his stint as the president's ambassador to China, Huntsman is preparing to challenge his old boss. Tuesday night, he courted Republicans in St. Petersburg.
"I had the trade minister in China sit down as we were preparing for trade negotiations. He said, 'Please don't let people in the United States lose their confidence because when you lose your confidence, the rest of the world suffers,' " Huntsman recounted to several dozen Tampa Bay Republican leaders and fundraisers at the Snell Isle home of James and Suzanne MacDougald. "The reality, sitting 10,000 miles away, is that we remain the country that inspires. We remain that shining city on a hill."
It was Huntsman's debut of sorts on the presidential trail, or at least the first time any reporter has seen him give a political speech since he returned from China last week to start exploring a campaign. (story here)