Jon Huntsman joins presidential race

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The Independent US

Another Republican has formally entered the race for the US presidential nomination, just months after stepping down as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China.

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, with an unusual political resume and sometimes centrist views, is considered a long-shot. But he is seen as a candidate to be feared by Mr Obama should he break out of the pack.

He announced his candidacy at Liberty State Park in New Jersey with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, the same place where Ronald Reagan announced his in 1980.

Mr Huntsman called the condition of America "totally unacceptable," and promised new jobs, energy independence and a simpler tax code.

"What we need now is leadership that trusts in our strength," he said. "Leadership that doesn't promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems, but rather looks to local solutions in our cities, towns and states."

His moderate stance on some issues and his service in the Democratic Obama administration could work against him in the Republican primaries, where conservative voters dominate, even though he also has worked for three Republican presidents.

But he would potentially make a tough opponent for Mr Obama, possibly attracting moderates and independents who often swing races. He can rely on his vast personal fortune to help finance his campaign.

As a former ambassador, Mr Huntsman has some of the strongest foreign policy credentials in the Republican race. In Beijing, he prodded the Chinese on human rights and worked to expand US engagement with the growing economic powerhouse.

Democrats may have thought that putting Mr Huntsman to work for Obama effectively took him out of the 2012 political equation, but that appears to have been a flawed assumption.

As he starts his campaign, the 51-year-old ranks in single digits in polls of Republican voters. Mitt Romney is seen as the early front-runner. Other candidates are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former pizza company entrepreneur Herman Cain, congressman Ron Paul, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

Other big-name Republicans, including Sarah Palin and Texas governor Rick Perry, have not said if they will enter the race.

Like Mr Romney, Mr Huntsman is a Mormon and his faith could be a liability. A recent Gallup poll found that one in five Americans said they would not vote for their party's nominee for president if that person was a Mormon.