Huntsman gets behind Romney bid

Could Utah governor be rewarded for his efforts with Leavitt-like Cabinet post?

Published: Wednesday, May 25 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Pooh-poohing the suggestion that he could end up in a Romney Cabinet, Huntsman said: "I couldn't have a better job in the world" over the next four years. "But I have no idea what the public will do with me after that" when he seeks re-election.

Leavitt promised when he ran for his third four-year term in 2000 that he would serve out his gubernatorial term. But in August 2003, with more than a year left in his term, Leavitt agreed to become Bush's administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, resigning his seat in November 2003.

After Bush won a second term, the president named Leavitt secretary of HHS.

While considered from the moderate wing of the Republican Party, Romney can win the GOP nomination, Huntsman said. He's not too moderate? "Recently, or two years ago?" Huntsman joked. "No. I think Mitt is a balanced politician.

"He can bring some very important states together in a most unusual way that perhaps a lot of people aren't focused on" — states that GOP presidential candidates have lost in recent elections.

"I'm talking about New England and the Mountain West. The industrial states of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, where his family is remembered, where his roots run deep."

Romney's late father, George Romney, is a former governor of Michigan who ran for president as a Republican in 1968.

Huntsman said when one studies the electoral map, where delegates and early primaries line up, "it could be argued Mitt has a pretty good foundation already, good name recognition."

Huntsman's family has been active in national politics before. His father, Jon Huntsman Sr., was Elizabeth Dole's national fund-raising chairman when the now-U.S. senator ran for president in 2000.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com; lisa@desnews.com

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