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SALT LAKE CITY -- Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. has embarked on a five-day unofficial campaign tour through the battleground state of New Hampshire, kicking off what could be called the ‘Why Jon Huntsman for president?' tour.
Since serving under the Obama administration as ambassador of China, Huntsman has remained relatively silent, with many well-known Republican candidates making a lot of noise in a wide-open campaign to secure the Republican nomination.
On Monday, Mitt Romney made great strides in his run for the presidency, raising $10.25 million during his National Call Day event in Las Vegas, with Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah County helping Romney in his efforts.
Meanwhile, Huntsman has only given a commencement speech in South Carolina, interviewed with Time magazine, and announced Orlando, Florida as his campaign headquarters if he decides to run for president.
Although most Utahns are familiar with the name Huntsman, others are left scratching their heads, wondering whom this Huntsman guy is. Any Google search on Huntsman would reference him to the Obama administration or to his Mormon religion. And that is not something a potential Republican candidate wants to be associated with.
He's like Romney, only with a personality. He's got a twinkle in his eye, he's comfortable in his skin.
Chris Cllizza, a New Hampshire Republican official, told Time magazine: "The buzz around the state is that he worked for Obama and that's all people know about him. Only after he answers questions about his relations with the President and his positions on Obama's policies, and presuming Republicans are satisfied, can he begin developing connections with the state's Republican activists, officials and voters."
Huntsman has his work cut out for him as he attempts to tell the people of New Hampshire who he is and why he differs from the countless score of other Republican hopefuls.
Even more, Huntsman has to distance himself from Romney if anyone is to take him serious. As the other Mormon in the presidential race, many will cast him aside because Romney has more notoriety and has been in the public spotlight since his failed attempt at a run for the presidency in 2008.
But Huntsman's political advisors are finding it hard to keep Romney out of the campaign. Advisor Richard Quinn told the Boston Globe: "He's like Romney, only with a personality. He's got a twinkle in his eye, he's comfortable in his skin."
But charm alone will not win the nomination for the Republican Party. Huntsman has a lot of ground to make up, starting with New Hampshire, to remain competitive in a presidential race with better-known candidates like Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rudy Guiliani, Tim Pawlenty, and even Sarah Palin -- if she decides to run.
"Huntsman needs to connect with people. He obviously needs to dispel any suspicion that he's conservative enough to win the Republican nomination," said New Hampshire Republican Chairman Travis Blais to POLITICO. "The guy's got a great resume, but so does Tim Pawlenty. So does Rick Santorum. It's got to be, ‘Why Jon Huntsman?"
Even in Utah, a safe Republican state, Huntsman will have an uphill battle against an already state favorite Mitt Romney.
Huntsman will have to distinguish himself in New Hampshire as a viable contendor in a vast pool of Republican candidates to have a shot at the presidency. The next five days in New Hampshire will have a major impact to his future.