Hanover, N.H. -- If his debut last night as an unofficial presidential candidate is any indication, Jon Huntsman will have to work hard to win over New Hampshire voters -- not because he served in the Obama administration or holds moderate views, but because he'll have to crawl over swarms of reporters just to get to them. Billed as a low-key "meet and greet" at Jesse's Restaurant, the media that showed up easily outnumbered the diners. It was a little ridiculous. While introducing Huntsman, the event's host had to ask reporters to step back so that actual voters could hear him speak.
Huntsman seemed intent on presenting himself as pleasant and reasonable, and not someone who was grasping or overambitious. "We are in the early stages of due diligence," he said. He stuck to broad themes of American competitiveness and economic growth. "I think it's going to be about whether or not this country is ready for the 21st century," Huntsman said. "We can either choose to have a lost decade... or we can choose to have an industrial revolution."
Huntsman brought up the deficit, but without using the apocalyptic language that is de rigueur among most Republicans. At several points, he invoked his experience as ambassador to China. When he answered questions, he mainly steered clear of specifics and displayed a diplomat's talent for speaking well without saying much. On the issue that might be his greatest obstacle--his service in the Obama administration--Huntsman said simply that he had been asked to serve his country and had done so proudly. "His answer about Obama was perfect," Derek Summerville, a senior at nearby Dartmouth College, said afterward.