Huntsman debuts in N.H. before crowd

May 20, 2011

By Theo Emery, Boston Globe staff

HANOVER, NH – Former US ambassador to China Jon M. Huntsman Jr. made his debut appearance here today before a crowd of voters who packed a banquet room for their first glimpse of the likely GOP presidential candidate.

“We are humbled even to be standing here with the possibility that we might make that decision in the weeks to come — that of running for the presidency of the greatest country in the world,” he said, with his family standing behind him.

The former Utah governor wasted no time addressing one of the issues often pointed to as a potential liability among primary voters and GOP activists: his tenure working for the Obama administration. He made no apologies.

“I served my president. My president asked me to serve. In a time of war, in a time of economic difficulty in this country, I’m the kind of person, when asked by my president to stand up and serve my country – when asked, I do it,” he said.

The event, hosted by a former Republican National Committee member, took place in a popular restaurant outside the heavily Democratic college town of Hanover, but some attendees traveled long distances to question the man many see as a key challenger to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has a formidable fund-raising network and organizational structure.

Huntsman is not widely known outside of Utah and Washington, so the five-day tour of New Hampshire represents his introduction to a state where voters expect to closely question candidates.

The inaugural event was in a restaurant dining room decked out like a hunting lodge – a bear skin was draped from a rafter and an enormous moose head loomed over Huntsman’s head as he spoke.

The planned choreography of the event quickly collapsed, as reporters and photographers swarmed Huntsman as he made his way around the room, introducing himself to voters. Microphone booms bobbed overhead, and senior citizens had to duck the cameras trained on Huntsman.

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