A foreign policy opening for Huntsman?

at 07:37 AM ET, 05/20/2011


Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman may have a opening on foreign policy in 2012. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
From the uprisings in Egypt and Libya to the killing of Osama bin-Laden to President Obama’s Middle East speech Thursday, foreign policy has been at center stage of the national debate for the better part of the last few months.

While the election in 2012 will almost certainly be decided on the economy and other domestic issues, the current foreign policy focus presents peril for a Republican field that lacks any significant international experience. But it also might give former Utah governor Jon Huntsman an opening to distinguish himself to voters in the early days of the campaign.

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Huntsman has a deep foreign policy resume, having served in the administrations of both Presidents Bush as well as President Ronald Reagan.

Of course, Huntsman’s most recent international service was as Ambassador to China in the Obama Administration — a major problem for him as he introduces himself to GOP primary voters.

Still, Huntsman’s experience and depth of knowledge in foreign affairs could allow him to turn the negative of his time in the Obama Administration into a positive — or at least a neutral — factor.

During his first trip to New Hampshire on Thursday, Huntsman struck a diplomatic tone when asked about President Obama’s controversial statement that negotiations between Israel and Palestine should begin with the boundaries in place prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

“If we respect and recognize Israel as the ally that it is, we probably ought to listen to what they think is best,” Huntsman said in response to a question in Hanover.

Huntsman’s comments were decidedly sedate when compared to how some of his potential rivals reacted to the Obama speech.

“President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” said former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.”

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty called Obama’s call for a return to the 1967 borders a “mistaken and very dangerous demand” while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich described the speech as a “disaster”.

Huntsman’s (relatively) subdued comments — and lack of an official statement — suggest that he and his team are seeking to strike a serious tone on the trail.

Whether that’s a sound strategy or not remains to be seen. But the focus on foreign policy does seem to present an opening for Huntsman to answer some of his doubters in the early days of his 2012 campaign.

2012 ad attacks Romney: Priorities USA Action, the outside group formed by two former aides to President Obama last month, has released its first 2012 election ad.

The spot targets former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and will run during Romney’s trip to South Carolina this weekend. “Mitt Romney says he’s ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan, who wrote the plan to essentially end Medicare,” the ad reads. “But with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder...which page is he on today?”

Shot back Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul: “President Obama and his team are desperate to change the subject to anything other than jobs and the millions of Americans out of work.”

Priorities USA Action can raise unlimited amounts of money, but the group must disclose its donors. Its sister group, Priorities USA, does not have to disclose donors but cannot directly engage in electioneering.

Debra Bowen concedes: California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has conceded in California’s 36th district special election. Republican businessman Craig Huey and Democratic L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn will face off in the July 12th run-off.

Huey’s vote total now stands at 14,096 (22%) to Bowen’s 13,346 (21%). With only 200 ballots uncounted, Huey’s 750-vote lead was insurmountable.

While Huey has only a slim chance of beating Hahn in a district where Democrat significantly outnumber Republicans, liberal voters who were divided between Bowen and anti-war activist Marcy Winograd in the state’s first “jungle primary” are likely disappointed.

Judge sides with Nevada GOP: A district judge has agreed with Republicans in Nevada, ruling against a free-for-all special election to fill the 2nd district seat vacated by now-Sen. Dean Heller (R). The decision appeared to surprise Democrats.

Judge Todd Russell ruled that the parties have time to hold nominating conventions before the September 13th special election. Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) had previously decided that the state’s murky election law called for a free-for-all, which could help Democrats in a GOP-leaning district.

Russell said the secretary of state was “picking and choosing” portions of the law to back up his decision. The judge acknowledged that the fight will probably go to the state Supreme Court.

Hirono running for Senate: Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) is running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D), she announced in a web video Thursday evening.

“We need a strong voice for a stronger Hawaii,” the three-term liberal Democrat said.

Hirono will face former Rep. Ed Case in the Democratic primary. Case lost a bid for Akaka’s seat a divisive 2006 primary, and he came in third in last year’s special House election.

Other Democrats who might get in include Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz.

Republicans are looking to former Gov. Linda Lingle, who has said she is considering the race.

FixBits:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) could still back Romney — or any other candidate.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) told CNN last night that Newt Gingrich is “thoughtful and smart” but sound-bites make him look like a “jerk.”

A veteran Rick Perry adviser swats down 2012 presidential rumors, saying, “He’s missing one ingredient: the desire to be president.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said this morning that workers want an “independent” labor movement not tied to one party.

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