Jon Huntsman’s Campaign Is on the Road and on Defense

By Dschabner

Jun 21, 2011 7:53pm

ABC News' Sarah Kunin reports:

Jon Huntsman’s campaign is on the road, and on the defense.

After launching his campaign in front of the Statue of Liberty this morning, Jon Huntsman flew straight to Exeter, N.H., to tell Granite Staters face-to-face that he is running for president. 

The event was scheduled to begin at 1:20 p.m., but the former ambassador took to the stage almost an hour later. “It's always a bad sign when the airplane arrives and the pilot doesn't," Huntsman joked as he began speaking to the crowd of more than 200 people.

Huntsman then delivered the same line he used just hours before in New Jersey: "Today, I'm a candidate for the office of President of the United States of America. My kids can't believe I just said that.”

Mary Kaye Huntsman stood by her husband’s side on the Exeter Town Hall stage, along with six of the seven Huntsman children. Son Jon III was unable to attend because he is in the U.S. Naval Academy.

Supporters of the former governor waved small American flags and held signs cheering on the newest presidential candidate. As Huntsman concluded his speech, a loud bang echoed through the room and confetti exploded into the air.
                               
As Huntsman’s campaign celebrated its first official day on the road, President Obama’s campaign released a statement admonishing the former governor’s economic positions.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt writes: "Governor Huntsman called for a more competitive and compassionate country, but he has embraced a budget plan that would slash our commitment to education, wipe out investments that will foster the jobs of the future and extend tax cuts for the richest Americans while shifting the burden onto seniors and middle class families.  Like the other Republican candidates, instead of proposing a plan that will allow middle class families to reclaim their economic security, Governor Huntsman is proposing a return to the failed economic policies that led us into the recession."

Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller fired back: "Not surprising that the Obama campaign's first attack comes at the expense of the candidate they fear most. What's funny is that they critiqued him for wanting to cut spending too much! As Governor, Jon Huntsman balanced budgets and created jobs, something the country could sure use right now."

In his announcement speech, Huntsman chose not to speak negatively about his competition.

“We will conduct this campaign on the high road,” he said. “I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the Office of President. Of course we'll have our disagreements. That's what campaigns are all about.

“I want you to know that I respect my fellow Republican candidates, and I respect the President of the United States,” Huntsman continued. “He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president; not who's the better American.”

But the swipes continued, next from presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who released an ad parodying Huntsman’s series of motocross videos.

Just like Huntsman’s ads, a motocross rider coasts down a desert road. A caption reads “Hasn’t signed the anti-abortion pledge … just like Mitt Romney,” as the driver crashes into a sand dune.

Santorum’s campaign followed up with a statement: "We certainly hope that Governor Romney will reconsider his decision not to sign and encourage Ambassador Huntsman to stand up and be counted on this important pro-life pledge. Being pro-life is about more than just rhetoric, it's about consistency and it's about action. And above all, it's about fighting to help protect those who can't protect themselves."

The Huntsman campaign responded that he'd already proven his opposition to abortion by his actions when he was Utah governor.

“People who rely on pledges usually don't have a record," Miller said. "Fortunately Governor Huntsman, a life-long, no flip flops pro-lifer, has actually signed anti-abortion legislation into law — that's a signature that makes a difference. Not only that, Jon Huntsman has lived it. He and Mary Kaye adopted two children — Gracie Mei, who had been abandoned in a Chinese market, and Asha from an orphanage in India."

As for the whether the mysterious masked bike rider in Huntsman’s ads was himself, Huntsman confirmed: “Sadly no. It was my bike, it was my gear, but we couldn’t work out the logistics of it.”

But for all those who were hoping to see Huntsman cruise down the highway on his motocross bike, all is not lost.

“It’s still not complete,” he said. “You’ll see more of the riding I’m sure."

Devin Dwyer and Susan Archer contributed to this report.

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