October 29, 2010
By Lisa Riley Roche
SALT LAKE CITY — A presidential bid by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. may be more likely than ever with the formation of a new political action committee by powerful supporters who want him in the race.
Huntsman, who stepped down as governor in August 2009 to become the U.S. ambassador to China, has also just bought a new $3.6 million home in Washington, D.C., even though he's not expected to leave Beijing for at least another year.
No money has been raised yet by R-PAC, created in August in Utah ostensibly to help fund Republican candidates around the country who share Huntsman's moderate politics. Similar PACs are planned for other states as well as at the federal level.
But those behind the fundraising effort, including John Weaver, a top strategist for 2008 Republican presidential candidate Arizona Sen. John McCain, stand ready to back a Huntsman run for the White House. . .
Matthew Wilson, a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who specializes in religion and politics, said Huntsman has a lot of work to do to be a viable candidate.
"Right now, he's pretty much off the national radar screen. The next step for him would be to give himself a platform," Wilson said, and that's where the PAC could come in.
Using the PAC to build political allies among GOP candidates could help increase Huntsman's visibility among the same party activists needed in a presidential race, he said.
There's plenty of time between now and 2016 to accomplish that goal. "Low key at this state is fine," Wilson said. "You do need to start laying the groundwork of connections, support and favors with people within the party."
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