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Huntsman family meeting in Utah this weekend to discuss presidential bid

Published: Friday, May 27 2011 8:52 p.m. MDT

Jon Huntsman Jr., in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 27, 2011, says he and his family are gathering in Utah this weekend to talk about whether he should run for president. (Jen Pilgreen, Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News) Jon Huntsman Jr., in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 27, 2011, says he and his family are gathering in Utah this weekend to talk about whether he should run for president. (Jen Pilgreen, Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Friday he and his family are gathering here this weekend to talk about whether he should run for president.

"This is not an easy decision to make," Huntsman told reporters before he entered the members-only Alta Club to meet with some of Utah's most powerful business and community leaders.

"It carries with it wide-ranging implications for us immediately and for people around us," he said. "And we want to make sure we're pretty methodical and contemplative as we go about making that decision."

Back only weeks from serving as U.S. ambassador to China, Huntsman said he expects to make up his mind soon.

Jon Huntsman Jr. (Jen Pilgreen, Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News) Jon Huntsman Jr. (Jen Pilgreen, Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News)

"We're moving inexorably in that direction and I think in the next few weeks, we'll arrive at a decision," he said.

Huntsman said the news that Mitt Romney, another Mormon with Utah ties, is expected to announce his bid for the White House next Thursday in New Hampshire won't affect his plans.

"We kind of look straight ahead at what a terrific country we have and what might need to be addressed, and make a decision on our own timeline," Huntsman said.

That decision is being discussed while Huntsman is in Utah for his son Will's graduation from Judge Memorial High School.

"We're having some family discussions right here over this very weekend with some of our kids coming in from other places," he said. "So we can sit here in a place we love and talk about the future."

Jon Huntsman Jr. briefly speaks to reporters in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 27, 2011. He said he and his family are gathering this weekend in Utah to talk about whether he should run for president. (Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News) Jon Huntsman Jr. briefly speaks to reporters in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 27, 2011. He said he and his family are gathering this weekend in Utah to talk about whether he should run for president. (Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News)

Huntsman's father, Jon Huntsman Sr., said Friday he just wants his son "to be happy. He's a very talented and wonderful individual and we're very honored to be his parents. We're excited on whatever decision he makes."

At least three Republicans are expected to declare in June they're running for president — Romney, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Romney's announcement is set for a farm owned by a former speaker of the New Hamsphire Legislature. Earlier this year, he unveiled his plans to create a presidential exploratory committee in a video shot in New Hampshire.

The state is home to the nation's first presidential primary, held after Iowa's presidential caucuses. Huntsman spent several days in the Granite State earlier in the week, meeting with voters.

Jon Huntsman Jr., in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 27, 2011, says he and his family are gathering in Utah this weekend to talk about whether he should run for president. (Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News) Jon Huntsman Jr., in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 27, 2011, says he and his family are gathering in Utah this weekend to talk about whether he should run for president. (Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News)

University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said the pressure's on Huntsman to make a decision about the race. Several candidates, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are already in and others, such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, are out.

"It's clearly the time people are making these decisions," Burbank said. "You can't wait around forever."

Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and a Romney adviser, said while Huntsman was in China, other contenders were able to raise money, assemble campaigns, court supporters and do media interviews.

"The field is being set right now," Jowers said. "There is a true cost for delaying."

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