Jon Huntsman, Jr., is a relatively unknown former governor, pro-civil union, sort-of Mormon who just wrapped up a two year stint working for President Obama. In China. Could he possibly win the GOP nomination?Time magazine’s new contributing editor Melinda Henneberger ponders the question in a warm profile of the former U.S. Ambassador to China, published today on Time‘s website.
The piece offers little clue as to Huntsman’s policy positions, but does offer some surprising facts about the former governor.
Here’s what we learned:
- Huntsman may or may not still be a Mormon. When asked if he still belongs to the LDS Church, he responds, “I’m a very spiritual person” and “proud of my Mormon roots.” When pressed further on whether he is still a member, he is even more vague: “That’s tough to define,” he says. “There are varying degrees. I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.”
- Mitt Romney is his distant cousin (as Huntsman’s daughter Liddy points out, “they got the same hair somewhere.)
- As Governor of Utah, Huntsman was wildly popular. He had an 80% approval rating when he left office in the middle of his second term to take the ambassadorship in China.
- While he was governor, Huntsman cut taxes and added jobs, largely by persuading the Mormon elders to let him ease up on the state’s liquor laws (that old “saloon-keeper” side kicking in?).
- Huntsman’s father oversaw the invention of the egg carton and clamshell Big Mac container. The Huntsman family is extraordinarily wealthy.
- Huntsman met his wife Mary Kaye when they were both working at a Salt Lake City Marie Callender’s. He was a dishwasher, she was a “salad girl.”
- Huntsman dropped out of high school to form a rock band named “The Wizards.”
- He likes the Foo Fighters and cross-country motorcycle racing.
As to whether Huntsman can win the Republican nomination, that remains to be seen. Democrats – including Obama’s top campaign strategist David Axelrod – are already trying to kill Huntsman with kindness, praising him as a helpful member of the Obama team.
Some conservatives, on the other hand, have criticised Huntsman for abdicating his responsibilities as ambassador to pursue his personal political goals.
BONUS: Here’s our view of Jon Huntsman’s campaign.