Jon Huntsman Jr. skipping GOP convention, calls for party to shift focus

Published: Friday, July 6 2012 11:24 a.m. MDT

Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah governor and GOP presidential candidate, talks during an interview May 1, 2012, in Salt Lake City. Huntsman has attended every GOP convention since 1984, but said he won't be attending this year's convention.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah governor and unsuccessful presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. said Friday he won't be attending any GOP national conventions until the party shifts its focus.

Huntsman, who dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination in January after a disappointing third-place finish in New Hampshire, said he has attended virtually every GOP convention since 1984, when he was a delegate for Ronald Reagan.

"I will not be attending this year's convention, nor any Republican convention in the future, until the party focuses on a bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States," Huntsman said in a statement. "A future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as fiscal and economic deficits."

He said he encourages "a return to the party we have been in the past, from Lincoln right on through to Reagan, that was always willing to put our country before politics."

Huntsman's announcement means he won't be on hand to see the other 2012 GOP presidential candidate with Utah ties, Mitt Romney, formally nominated at the party's convention in Tampa, Fla., this August.

At the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis, Huntsman introduced Sarah Palin as the party's vice presidential pick despite losing his voice. Unlike most Utah Republicans, Huntsman had backed that year's eventual nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, over Romney.

This election, Huntsman entered the race after stepping down as President Barack Obama's U.S ambassador to China, surprising many who had believed he would wait to run in 2016.

Since leaving the race, Huntsman has taken on a number of new roles, including as a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank based in Washington, D.C. He has a family home in the nation's capital and a condo in downtown Salt Lake City.

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