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Jon Huntsman rules out another political bid — for now

Published February 6, 2012 5:20 pm

Post-campaign • Huntsman joining corporate boards and is likely to have still-unknown media gig.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says he's ruling out another political bid this year but is leaving open the possibility of a future run.

In his first public comments since abandoning his presidential race, Huntsman told The Salt Lake Tribune that he plans to serve on some corporation boards, do some volunteer work and go on a speaker circuit as well as possibly taking some yet-to-be-named news media gig. But, for now, he's taking a break from the political scene.

"No politics for me," Huntsman said in a phone interview. "We gave it our best shot, and now we're building the base once again in private life."

Some Utah politicos have wondered about a possible independent campaign by Huntsman against Sen. Orrin Hatch, though the former governor says he's not interested. But that doesn't mean he's done with politics forever.

"You never know — life is full of serendipity, and I have no idea what the years ahead hold," Huntsman said. "But as for this cycle, we're not going to be involved politically."

Huntsman, who ended his White House bid on Jan. 16, has already jumped on as chairman of his family's Huntsman Cancer Foundation and was named Monday to the board of directors of the Huntsman Corp., an international petrochemical firm started by his father, Jon Huntsman Sr.

Huntsman took a brief vacation after halting his presidential bid, but says there's "no shortage of opportunities" in what he may do now.

"I've got so much time to give, and you're going to read other announcements in the weeks ahead about other involvement and affiliations," he said.

Ron Bonjean, a Republican consultant in Washington who is neutral in the presidential race, says Huntsman is wise in carefully choosing his role after a White House run, particularly if he wants to return to politics later.

"Those are good ideas," Bonjean said of the cancer institute position and his family's company. "They position him on issues that Americans care about. It shows he remains engaged in the public arena."

The cancer institute, Bonjean says, allows Huntsman a soapbox to talk about health care issues. Beyond that, the consultant said Huntsman should secure a spot as a television pundit to keep his name in public circulation.

Huntsman hinted at that, noting that he would be doing something with regard to "the media," but he said details would be coming later on that.

Huntsman, who resigned as Utah's governor in 2009 to take the job of U.S. ambassador to China, returned to America last year and launched a bid for the presidency that was fraught with challenges. After placing third in New Hampshire, where he'd staked his campaign, Huntsman pulled out of the race and endorsed rival Mitt Romney.

The ex-governor says he has "zero regrets" about his bid that he and his father spent nearly $5 million on and that he was thrilled he had the opportunity to run.

"If you can walk away from a presidential campaign with a sense of dignity and your name still intact, and beyond that with the ability to live to fight another day, that's about all you can ask for," he said in the interview. "And that's better than what most people are able to walk away from a presidential campaign with. ... I have zero regrets and only see it as something that was a win-win for our family."

Chris Arterton, professor of political management at George Washington University, says its "awfully common" for former presidential candidates to take spots on corporate and foundation boards and go on a speaker circuit, though Arterton says landing a spot as a talking head on TV would keep him in the public eye.

"I don't think he'd be welcomed on Fox broadcasting, given the way he presented himself, but he might in fact wind up on MSNBC or CNN," Arterton said.

While it's unclear what media spot he may take, Huntsman is returning to the airwaves Tuesday, offering his first television interview since withdrawing from the race to Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show."