PAC sends strong signal for Huntsman presidential run

Published: Thursday, Oct. 28 2010 6:00 p.m. MDT

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."

Of course, waiting until 2016 risks running against a fellow Republican elected in 2012. Romney, a Mormon like Huntsman, is among the likely GOP candidates in 2012.

It may already be too late anyway for 2012, said Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa. The state's caucuses are traditionally the first test of presidential candidates.

"As far as we're concerned here in Iowa, the caucuses start on the 3rd of November," Hagle said. He acknowledged he knows little about Huntsman.

Wilson said Huntsman's new home in Washington could help him cultivate the national political contacts who can raise his profile, although the address likely rules out that he'll run for office again in Utah.

In early October, Washingtonian magazine's website reported Huntsman purchased for $3.6 million mansion in an upscale area of Washington, D.C., that was used for the filming of Bravo's Top Chef television show.

Lisa Roskelley, who served as Huntsman's spokeswoman when he was governor and now helps run his PAC, said the purchase wasn't politically motivated.

"It's kind of a home base," Roskelley said, since the Huntsman's older children are either attending college or working back East. When Huntsman travels back to the United States as ambassador, she said he spends much of his time in the area.

Although the Huntsmans sold their home in Salt Lake City after his election in 2004 to move into the governor's mansion, Roskelley said the new residence in Washington doesn't mean he's cutting his ties to Utah.

"It's safe to say Huntsman has a very special place in his heart for Utah always," she said.

e-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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