Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum Move Toward Presidential Runs, Launch Committees

May 3, 2011 5:40pm

ABC News' Amy Walter reports:

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman took his first tangible step toward exploring a run for president by setting up a federal political action committee on Tuesday.

Tim Miller, a spokesman for the new committee, called "H PAC," tells ABC News that the move is “an organizational step that will allow him to travel the country, discuss issues that are important to him, and support Republican candidates.”

And despite the fact that Huntsman has had something of a shadow campaign up and running for months, the new PAC is not an official acknowledgement that he’s running.

“If he decides to run for president,” Miller said, “ he'll make an announcement at that time.”

Huntsman’s first major public address is this Saturday in South Carolina where he’ll give a commencement address at the University of South Carolina. In late May, he will make a foray into New Hampshire. Coincidentally, South Carolina and New Hampshire are two of the four early primary states.

Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, returned to Washington this past weekend after serving since August 2009 as the country's top diplomat in China. News of the formation of Huntsman's exploratory committee was first reported by Politico.

Also on Monday former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who had already announced he was “testing the waters” said he has established a presidential exploratory committee.

Forming an exploratory committee was one of the requirements for participation in Thursday’s Republican debate in South Carolina sponsored by Fox and the South Carolina Republican Party.

While Santorum has kept a schedule that looks like that of candidate — he’s made multiple visits to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa — he still won’t officially declare that he’s running for president. 

"I am pleased that we have taken this important next step in the process to potentially become a candidate for President of the United States," Santorum said in a statement on Monday. "The debate this Thursday is a unique opportunity to put forth ideas and solutions to bring our economy back on track, and with Osama bin Laden's death, I look forward to also discussing in depth ways to tackle our many national security challenges."

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