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Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.: 'I'm open' to running again for president

Published: Tuesday, May 6 2014 11:55 p.m. MDT

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. takes the stage just before he announces that he will run for the US presidency June 21, 2011, at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. Huntsman Jr. said he's "open" to another run for the White House while offering praise for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for 2016, in a new interview with longtime talk show host Larry King.

Stan Honda, Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images

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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said he's "open" to another run for the White House while offering praise for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for 2016, in a new interview with longtime talk show host Larry King.

"I'm open, but here's the deal. You have to be able to create a pathway from Point A to Point B," Huntsman told King in an interview on online channel Ora.tv's PoliticKING that will be posted Thursday.

"I can tell you how I'd get to the finish line from Super Tuesday, but I can't tell you how I get through those early primary states having been there and done that once before," the 2012 candidate said.

King, best known as the host of "Larry King Live" on CNN for 25 years, had asked Huntsman if he'd run again, saying the governor's supporters believed he wasn't able to get the Republican nomination in 2012 because the party was too split.

Politics, Huntsman replied, is a lot about serendipity.

"It's hard to be able to preplan where you might find yourself as a public servant. I never thought I would run for governor. I never thought I would be in China as the United States ambassador," he said. "Things happen."

Huntsman, who was appointed ambassador by President Barack Obama and served with then-Secretary of State Clinton, said Clinton is "a very impressive public servant," as well as "a very, very capable person."

"You know, as a young Republican, you are trained to go after the Clintons, and Hillary Clinton, of course, was the nemesis during the Clinton years. And then you have an opportunity to work with her as secretary of state," he said.

Before Huntsman got into the 2012 race, a letter he wrote to the president surfaced that included similar praise for Clinton as someone who is "well-read, hardworking, personable and has even more charisma than her husband."

University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said Huntsman doesn't seem to be positioning himself for 2016 given what he said about the race and his potential rival.

"I think that would be leaving the door open only a little bit," Burbank said, calling Huntsman's statements about the difficulties of running "a fairly realistic assessment."

Huntsman dropped out of the 2012 race early on after a disappointing third-place finish in New Hampshire and little prospect of doing well in upcoming primaries in more conservative states like South Carolina and Florida.

"As a Republican candidate, he wouldn't really have a strong appeal to the conservative Southern voters that tend to dominate the Republican Party," Burbank said. "That's an obstacle I just don't see how he gets around."

What Huntsman had to say about Clinton was "a much more positive statement than I would have expected," Burbank said. "If you were thinking of running, you wouldn't make that kind of positive statement."

Instead, Burbank said, a possible GOP contender would take the opportunity to spell out his or her differences with Clinton, widely seen as the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

Clinton is seen by some as the target of the continued efforts by Republicans, including Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, to investigate the U.S. consulate attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, during her term as secretary of state.

Peter Spaulding, a New Hampshire county commission chairman who helped Huntsman put together his Granite State team, said there are those in the GOP who won't want to hear what Huntsman had to say about Clinton.

"Yes, there are some Republicans, that if you say one positive word about someone like the president or another Democrat, they'll demagogue you," Spaulding said, calling such attacks pointless.

Voters, he said, may be ready for a more moderate GOP candidate unwilling to engage in going after Clinton.

"Americans have had enough of that," Spaulding said. "There's really not a big place for that today."

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