Although he is hovering somewhere near the bottom of most recent national polls, former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has an outsize campaign kick-off planned today. He's hoping that the venue that brought Ronald Reagan electoral success in 1980 will do the same for him in 2012.
Huntsman will officially unveil his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty later this morning, declaring that while he respects the president who appointed him to the post in Beijing, the two have “a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love.”
“The question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President,” Huntsman will say, “not who’s the better American.” (He notes, “I don't think you need to run down anyone's reputation to run for President.”)
Huntsman will speak from Liberty State Park in New Jersey before launching a multi-state announcement tour that will take him to a town-hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire today followed by stops in Florida, South Carolina, Utah, California, Texas and elsewhere around the country.
“For the first time in our history, we are about to pass down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got,” Huntsman plans to say. “This is totally unacceptable and totally un-American.”
It’s clear that Huntsman's decision to run has been met with particular ire from within the Obama White House and the president's re-election headquarters in Chicago. Strategist David Axelrod attempted to paint Huntsman into a pro-Obama corner in an interview over the weekend, saying that Huntsman “was encouraging on health care” and “encouraging on the whole range of issues” while he served in the administration. (A Huntsman spokesman called Axelrod’s contention “absurd.”)
The Obama team seems to take Huntsman more seriously than many Republicans do. GOP strategists we talk to see him as a potential factor, but it’s hard to find any who currently see him as potential nominee. Could that change? Of course, but Huntsman has a lot of work to do to prove that he can play at the top of the Republican field instead of at the bottom.
BOTTOM LINE: Huntsman’s campaign is trying to set the candidate apart with an aggressive Internet and social media strategy, which has included a series of motocross web videos conceived by ad whiz Fred Davis, and they’ve also been seeking to tout Huntsman’s conservative credentials whenever possible. Unconventional campaigning is interesting in theory but is rarely successful in reality. Primary voters are more interested in how candidates match up with their own values.
Stay tuned to ABC News and ABCNews.com for dispatches from our Jonathan Karl, who will be traveling with Huntsman on his announcement tour today.
THE ELECTION WILL BE TWEETED. Along with the launch of his new, slick web site, http://jon2012.com/ that will live-stream Huntsman’s presidential announcement at 10:00 a.m. today, the newly-minted candidate will also unveil two twitter feeds, his personal account, @JonHuntsman and a campaign account, @Jon2012HQ
MCCAIN TAKES SWIPE AT HUNTSMAN ON WAR STANCE. Arizona Sen. John McCain offered some blunt advice today to Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and other critics of continued U.S. military involvement in Libya and Afghanistan. “I hope that all of these candidates as the campaign goes on understands what our national security requirements are, that we are the world’s leader, America has to lead, as we are not leading in Libya, which is one reason why that conflict, third rate military, has not been concluded,” McCain told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. “I hope that they will learn and listen to people like Gen. David Petraeus and others, who has the highest not only respect and admiration but a record of success,” he said. Huntsman has said “we just can't afford” participation in the NATO operation in Libya, and he’s raised concerns about prolonged involvement in Afghanistan, where he says, “we're wasting our money and we’re wasting our strategic resources.” http://abcn.ws/lnTtcI
ANTI-HUNTSMAN DEMOCRTAIC OFFENSIVE BEGINS. ABC’s Sarah Kunin reports that in a conference call with reporters yesterday, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland expressed disdain for the man he once worked with closely when he was Governor of Utah. “For many years Jon Huntsman was a leader…many of us could respect,” said Holland. “The Jon Huntsman I know supported Barack Obama and president Obama’s recovery act, but said it should have been larger. The Jon Huntsman I know worked with Democrats to pass the cap and trade program and said at the time it was the only alternative to a carbon tax. The Jon Huntsman I know signed into law a health insure exchange and proposed an individual mandate for Utah. It now appears that has all changed… claims to oppose the recovery act now, he says he’s against the cap and trade program now, and he wants to repeal insurance reform now.” http://abcn.ws/kUGY9t
And today in New Hampshire, a state where Huntsman is competing aggressively and where he will appear at a campaign rally today, the state Democratic Party has prepared a greeting for the candidate. “We know that announcing one's candidacy for President is a big undertaking – and it's especially daunting when you have to rewrite many of your previous policy positions to pander to the extreme right,” a spokeswoman for the party said. “So to help Jon Huntsman out on his announcement day, the New Hampshire Democratic Party has prepared some suggested bumper sticker slogans for the Huntsman campaign.” Here are the slogans: http://bit.ly/km4xWD
OBMA SET TO ANNOUNCE AFGHANISTAN DRAWDOWN. “President Obama will announce on Wednesday his much anticipated decision on drawing down troops in Afghanistan,” ABC’s Sara Just and Huma Khan report. “After the announcement Wednesday, the president will travel Thursday to Fort Drum, N.Y., home of the 10th Mountain Division, one of the first to deploy to Afghanistan. President Bush visited there less than a year after the war started. Military sources tell ABC News' Martha Raddatz they hope the initial drawdown number is small, but that they do not know what the president's decision is yet. Soon-to-be-retired Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on his final tour of Afghanistan earlier this month, warned that it would be ‘premature’ to make any significant changes to the military campaign in Afghanistan before the end of the year or until the United States can say that ‘we've turned the corner here in Afghanistan.’ The White House, on the other hand, continues to argue that the cuts in the numbers of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be ‘real.’ … Some reports have suggested that 5,000 combat troops may be brought home in July, with roughly an additional 5,000 by the end of the year — but no confirmed numbers have been released. There are currently about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, so the withdrawal could be less than 10 percent, a number that is already riling up Obama's liberal base.” http://abcn.ws/jhnQul
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter speak with Civil Rights Activist and former Arizona U.S. Senate hopeful Randy Parraz. Also on the program, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc
“TOP LINE” REPLAY: CHRIS VAN HOLLEN. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said that negotiations with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling were going well, “as far as we’ve gone.” In an appearance on “Top Line” yesterday, Van Hollen said, “the Vice President was very smart. He began by looking for areas of common ground, and then built on that.” Van Hollen said that by the end of the month, the committee should know whether they will be able to reach agreement. “But the big issues remain out there,” the Maryland Democrat added, “and one of the big ones of course you've heard about is, Republicans need to understand that if you're going to have a balanced approach to deficit reduction, you've got to be getting rid of a lot of these special interest tax loop holes.”
RICK PERRY WATCH: ON THE MOVE AND THE ON THE MEND. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: After a week of major speeches — at a New York GOP dinner and at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans — Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry has returned to Austin as the Lone Star State's special legislative session draws to a close. But he won’t stay put for long. This Thursday, he will deliver a keynote address at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference in San Antonio. On June 29, Perry heads to San Diego to speak at the San Diego Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Dinner. And, the Texas governor will have minor back surgery on July 1.
Perry will make a decision regarding a presidential run following the end of the legislative session on June 29, sources say, but one scheduled event already has him in a key primary state — South Carolina — later this summer. Perry will speak at the RedState Gathering on August 13 in Charleston, S.C. (Notably, that’s the same day as the Iowa Straw Poll.)
“At this point, people shouldn't read too much into anything,” Mark Miner, a spokesman for Gov. Perry, told ABC News. “The Governor is still thinking about running and is not a candidate at this time.”
ROMNEY, HUNTSMAN SEEKING MORMON DONORS. “The first showdown between the two Mormons running for president will take place this week in Utah, where Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. will hold competing fundraisers only a couple of hours and a few blocks apart. … He and Romney are trying to tap into the wealth of the Mormon community, one of the Republican Party’s ripest donor pools and one that both are laying special claim to,” the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Nia-Malika Henderson report. “Romney and Huntsman are trying to parlay their status in Utah — the former as the turnaround artist who saved the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the latter as a recent governor and both as scions of wealthy and influential Mormon families – to give themselves an advantage in the 2012 race. ‘That community is going to be split, there’s no doubt about it,” said John Weaver, Huntsman’s chief strategist. ‘That’s natural, because they know both families and they know both men.’ Weaver, perhaps trying to lower expectations for his candidate, said Romney’s 2008 race gives him a head start with Mormon donors. ‘There will be people who support both, and there will be people who will support Romney,’ he said. ‘And we have some major bundlers and donors who have seen both who are going with us. But it’s not so much about taking people away.’ In fact, Huntsman and his supporters have been calling Romney donors and asking them to consider giving to Huntsman, too, according to several Utah Republicans.” http://wapo.st/mtuVLv
RUBIO ATTACKS OBAMA’S ‘UNWILLINGNESS’ TO REFORM ENTITLEMENTS. “Unfortunately, Washington’s leadership deficit extends straight to the White House. The president has done nothing to ease the burden of our 70,000-page tax code on families and businesses,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote in an Op-Ed for the Daily Caller. “Instead, he has signed into law over $670 billion of job-killing tax hikes, with another huge tax hike set to hit in just a year and a half…Instead of approving job-creating trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea, the Obama administration has stalled them. Most troubling is the president’s unwillingness to reform entitlements, a decision that will ensure a Greek-style debt crisis here at home and a diminished future for our children and grandchildren. In order to save important programs such as Social Security and Medicare — programs that millions of Floridians like my mother rely on — we need to reform them for younger people who are at least a decade away from retirement. Doing nothing, as the president and Democrats propose, will accelerate the bankruptcy of Medicare and our nation as a whole, and condemn our children and grandchildren to live in a country that is a mere shell of the one we inherited from our parents. This is our defining moment. If this president and Congress fail to address these great challenges of our time, our children and grandchildren will never forgive us.” http://bit.ly/mMG4VP
BOEHNER ‘UNDER SEIGE’ ON LIBYA POLICY. “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is under siege from factions on the left and the right as the House considers whether to strike funding for the U.S. military mission in Libya,” The Hill’s Russell Berman notes. “House Republicans and anti-war liberals want Boehner to escalate a confrontation with the Obama administration over war powers and defend the relevance of Congress in military affairs by bringing forward a bill to end funding for the Libyan operation. But conservative hawks such as Karl Rove, Liz Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz are urging Boehner to resist the temptation to pass legislation that would, in their view, undermine American power and prestige on the world stage. ‘Speaker Boehner is in a very difficult position, not just because of his members but because of the way the administration has handled this,’ said Randy Scheunemann, a former senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Scheunemann was one of 38 signers of an open letter to House Republicans, released Monday, that urged Congress not to end funding for the military operation in Libya. Rove, Cheney and Wolfowitz also signed the letter.” http://bit.ly/iG8WRK
MCCAIN AND GRAHAM’S WANING INFLUENCE. “Even within their own party, Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham now have to shout to be heard. It’s a stunning change for two men who have been the leading voices for their party’s interventionist vision on foreign policy and now find themselves on the periphery of a debate over the conflict in Libya that is reshaping the GOP’s stance on war and executive branch power,” Politico’s Scott Wong reports. “Their staunch support of the effort conflicts with a chorus of leading Republicans: House Speaker John Boehner has threatened to pull funding for the Libya effort, Republican presidential hopefuls dug in during the national debate last week and several House Republicans even joined Democrats in filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama for his decision to use force. ‘In the foreign policy debate, realists are becoming a part of the Republican mainstream, and that makes Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham more than a little apprehensive,’ said Dimitri Simes, president and chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for the National Interest. McCain and Graham’s new role as outsiders on Libya shows how their influence over the party’s once-defining stance on foreign policy — held for the past two decades — is slipping away as the Republican Party zeros in on spending and a public grows weary of the mounting death toll from a decade at war.” http://politi.co/iJfhFU
BRISTOL PALIN DISHES ON 2008 CAMPAIGN, LEVI JOHNSTON AND MOTHERHOOD. “From Levi Johnston to Meghan McCain, Bristol Palin has been put off by a lot of people. In her upcoming memoir, ‘Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far,’ the 20-year-old daughter of former Alaska governor/potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin reveals her true feelings about the father of her son, the daughter of her mother's 2008 running mate, and much more,” ABC’s Sheila Marikar writes. “Palin writes that the first time she met the 26-year-old daughter of Sen. John McCain, she ‘ignored us during the entire visit.’ This was just before Senator McCain introduced Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin adds that she ‘had a sneaking suspicion I might need to watch my back.’ ‘Every time we saw Meghan, she seemed to be constantly checking us out, comparing my family to hers and complaining,’ she writes. ‘Oh the complaining.’ Cindy McCain, the senator's wife, also rubbed the eldest Palin daughter the wrong way. ‘I'd never seen people with so much Louis Vuitton luggage, so many cell phones, and so many constant helpers to do hair and makeup,’ Palin writes, adding that the would-be first lady looked ‘like a queen’ and held ‘herself like royalty.’” http://abcn.ws/lngocg
JON KARL’S TWEET OF THE DAY:
@politicoroger: Saw Ed Henry at reception for HRH Prince Edward at Capitol last night. Hard to tell who had bigger throng around him: Henry or the Prince.
* Jon Huntsman will announce his intention to join the 2012 presidential race near the Statue of Liberty at Liberty State Park, N.J., at 10 a.m. At 1:20 p.m., he will attend an announcement rally in front of the Town Hall in Exeter, N.H. Huntsman will return to New Jersey later that evening and attend a fundraiser in New York City.
* Mitt Romney arrives in California to kick off a three-day fundraising tour, including stops in Orange County, Sacramento and Los Angeles.
* Ron Paul will speak at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Council Bluffs, Iowa at 9:30 a.m. He will appear at the Sergeant Bluff Community Center in Council Bluff at noon.
* Rick Santorum appears at a meet-and-greet in Okaloosa, Iowa at 11:30 a.m. CT. At 1:30 p.m. CT, Santorum will attend another meet-and-greet at Adams Street Espresso in Creston. Santorum will be a featured guest at a house party sponsored by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition in Council Bluffs at 6 p.m. CT.
* Newt & Callista Gingrich present a screening of their documentary, "A City Upon A Hill," followed by a book and DVD signing in Savannah, GA.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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