Washington • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. introduced himself as a potential presidential candidate to a group of faith-oriented conservatives in Washington on Friday, pitching his anti-abortion gubernatorial record and his personal story of adopting two daughters.
Huntsman, who could announce a White House run within weeks, didn't receive the rock-star treatment that presidential contender and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann enjoyed only an hour before. But the crowd still offered a standing ovation to the former governor after he portrayed himself as pro-business and anti-tax with a strong pro-life record.
"You see, I do not believe the Republican Party should focus only on our economic life to the neglect of our human life. That is a trade we should not make," Huntsman said at the annual Faith and Freedom Conference in downtown Washington. "If Republicans ignore life, the deficit we will face will be much more destructive. It will be a deficit of the heart and of the soul."
Huntsman, who resigned April 30 as the U.S. ambassador to China, also touted how he'd presided over the biggest tax cut in history in Utah as governor a $225 million tax cut how the state's economy grew at more than three times the clip of the national economy and how Utah was named the best managed state in the union.
"If the Faith and Freedom Coalition should understand one thing about me and the state I served, it's this: Utah has some of the greatest people in the nation," Huntsman said. "In Utah, people know the difference between freedom and serfdom the serfdom of high debt and massive government and the toll these take on our liberty, on our economy and our lives. And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be the essence of the election in 2012."
Huntsman spoke for some 11 minutes at the gathering but did not once mention his Mormon roots or his personal beliefs. Other speakers quoted Bible passages, while Huntsman cited the late President Ronald Reagan. In addition to Bachmann, other announced or potential presidential contenders scheduled to speak included ex-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain, who was set to offer the keynote speech tomorrow.
Ralph Reed, the founder of the coalition that claims 400,000 members, introduced Huntsman as an expected presidential candidate who "modernized and innovated state government" and strongly supported some of the "most sweeping pro-life legislation in the nation."
Reed added that Huntsman is a "good conservative and good friend."
Huntsman, who heads to New Hampshire this weekend for the second time in two weeks, brought to the event several members of his family, including his two adopted daughters, Gracie Mei and Asha, whom Huntsman talked about in his speech.