With the Statue of Liberty in sight and flags waving in the background, Jon Huntsman officially joined the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday. Leading up to his announcement, Huntsman has striven to carve out an image as an unconventional candidate and has shied away from calling himself a conservative. Here are 10 things you can call him, however.
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1. Former Governor of Utah
Huntsman, who was first elected as governor of Utah in 2004, won re-election in 2008 with 77 percent of the vote. He had an 80 percent approval rating when he resigned to accept the position of U.S. ambassador to China.
2. Former Ambassador to China, and Obama Admirer
Huntsman, who is fluent in Mandarin, resigned as governor of Utah in 2009 to serve as ambassador to China in the Obama administration. It was a surprise move by the Republican who was already being eyed as a potential challenger to Obama in 2012, even by Obama's former campaign manager . During his tenure as ambassador, Huntsman wrote letters to Obama praising his leadership skills, which have already been used as fodder by Democrats.
3. Laid-Back Campaigner
Huntsman put the wheels in motion for his presidential bid late last year when he told a Newsweek reporter that he and his family "may have one final run left in our bones." After reading this, strategist John Weaver, whom Huntsman had been in contact with before taking the China post, took this is a green light for 2012. Huntsman says Weaver is the first strategist he's ever used, and tries to give the impression that his campaign has no "master plan."
4. Distinguished Eagle Scout
Huntsman, who became an Eagle Scout when he was 15, took the time to pen a personal note to each scout in Utah who earned the ranking during his time as governor. Huntsman was named a Distinguished Eagle Scout by the Boy Scouts of America.
5. Former Mormon Missionary
Huntsman spent two years in Taiwan serving as a Mormon missionary and learning Mandarin Chinese while he was in college. Huntsman's religion could prove to be a political roadblock , with more than a fifth of respondents in a recent poll saying they wouldn't vote for a Mormon.
6. High-School Dropout/Aspiring Rock Star
As Huntsman recalled at the University of South Carolina commencement this year, he dropped out of high school to play keyboard for the rock band "Wizard." Huntsman later earned his G.E.D and then a degree in international politics from the University of Pennsylvania.
7. Note-Card Sender
Huntsman said in a 2005 interview that instead of sending e-mails, he prefers to send handwritten notes. Though some have suggested this is a tactic to sidestep Utah's open records laws, Huntsman said the practice was something he picked up as deputy U.S. trade ambassador and the notecards have served him well.
7. Motocross Rider
Huntsman "has a thing for motorcycles" and extreme sports, exhibited in his somewhat puzzling campaign videos . "Getting dirty and hanging out with roughnecks is certainly one way to prove that, despite being the son of one of the richest and most politically connected men in Utah, you're a regular guy," The New Republic noted.
8. Son of a Rich Man
Jon Huntsman is the son of billionaire businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr., one of the wealthiest men in Utah, who invented the clam-shell Styrofoam box for the McDonald's Big Mac.
9. Father of Seven
He and his wife, Mary Kaye, have seven children together. Two are adopted: one from China, the other from India.
Huntsman's alleged one-time support for a health care mandate , as well as his current or former support for civil unions, immigration legislation, and a cap-and-trade plan, have earned him the label of "centrist" among his party.
Image: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
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