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Huntsman meeting with governors, donors in Utah

Published: Friday, July 15 2011 1:19 p.m. MDT

Jon Huntsman Jr. walks with StruckAxiom COO Pauline Ploquin, left, and his wife, Mary Kaye, as they tour the Salt Lake advertising agency.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. said Friday he's not counting on getting any endorsements at the National Governors Association meeting.

At least not yet.

After touring a downtown advertising agency, Utah's former governor said he was meeting with some of the 32 governors participating in the NGA's annual meeting that continues through Sunday in Salt Lake City.

But he said he wasn't expecting any of them to endorse him here.

"That would be an inappropriate use of the NGA. This is about keeping the dialog open, reconnecting with old friends and making some news ones," Huntsman said. "Endorsements will follow. Give us time."

Huntsman, who stepped down as governor in 2009 to become U.S. ambassador to China, said he also plans to meet with the Chinese provincial leaders here for the NGA meeting and a U.S.-China trade conference.

His visit to Utah also includes meeting with potential donors.

Besides meeting "individually, just on the sidelines" with governors, Huntsman said he's here "because we have some events of our own with fundraisers. It's an opportunity for us to come together with kind of a core fundraising team, which just happened to overlap with the NGA."

While Huntman's tour of StruckAxiom's offices was private, he will make a public appearance Saturday at Plaza Cycle, 1379 W. 3300 South, at 2 p.m. following a motorcycle ride from the Harley-Davidson store in Salt Lake City.

Huntsman took a swing at his GOP rival, former Salt Lake Olympic leader and Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, telling reporters Utah was a leader in job creation but Massachusetts ranked 47th under Romney.

The former ambassador also dismissed polls in Utah that show him trailing Romney. Romney won an overwhelming 90 percent of the vote in Utah's 2008 GOP primary over the party's eventual nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"First of all, Utah isn't an early primary state, so I don’t' think we should be obsessing too much over that," Huntsman said. More important, he said, is that polls show that if he were the party's nominee, he would beat President Barack Obama in Utah's 2012 general election.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com Twitter: dnewspolitics

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