Utah Governor Boards The McCain Bandwagon

By Chris Cillizza
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has joined the growing list of Republican officials supporting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president in 2008.

Huntsman has agreed to serve as a co-chairman of McCain's Straight Talk America political action committee. He will help coordinate politics and policy for McCain in Western states.

"John McCain's understanding of America's role in the world is unparalleled," said Mike Mower, a spokesman for Huntsman. "His knowledge of the West, leadership and independence are indispensable to our nation's well-being."

Huntsman's support for McCain strikes deep into the political base of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another of the potential contenders for the Republican nomination.

Huntsman is a member of one of Utah's most prominent Mormon families. His father, billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., had been a leading contributor to Romney's Commonwealth PAC and said he would like to see Romney seek the presidency. The younger Huntsman, who was ambassador to Singapore before his election in 2004, is friendly with Romney and had served as an informal adviser to him on foreign policy matters, according to published reports.

Huntsman's relationship with McCain began last year. Interested in the immigration reform debate, Huntsman sought out the senator to discuss solutions. The bond solidified when McCain invited Huntsman to join him on a trip to Iraq in late March. Huntsman reciprocated by bringing McCain to Utah in May to speak to the state party convention.

Last week, Huntsman came to Washington to meet with McCain. He urged the senator to run for president, and McCain asked him to play a part in that hypothetical national campaign.

McCain political strategist John Weaver called Huntsman a "rising star in our party" and added: "If John does make the decision to move forward, Governor Huntsman will play a key national role."

Democrats Attack in Indiana

House Democrats are making sure that President Bush (or at least a sound-alike) is prominent on the minds of Indiana voters.

In radio ads sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against GOP Reps. Michael E. Sodrel and Chris Chocola, a Bush impersonator leaves a message for each incumbent.

"The tax breaks you voted for Big Oil and Gas, $2.6 billion, I appreciate it," says the faux president. "And voting against a crackdown on price gouging, telling them, 'Go ahead, Big Oil, gouge away.' "

The ads against Sodrel and Chocola are to begin running this week and are part of a broader campaign -- targeting 10 House seats and on which the DCCC is spending $400,000 -- to show Republicans as out of step with their constituents.

The other targets include Indiana's 8th District, Iowa's 1st, New Mexico's 1st, Kentucky's 4th, Ohio's 15th, North Carolina's 11th, Virginia's 2nd and Pennsylvania's 10th.

Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com. The Fix, his online political column, runs daily at www.washingtonpost.com/thefix.

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