SALT LAKE CITY — Former presidential candidate and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Monday he wants to see what happens over the next year before deciding whether to run again for the White House.
“Politics has always been a healthy bit of serendipity. It's really hard to forecast where things go and how events play out. We don't have any plans at this point,” Huntsman said. “We'll see how the year plays out.”
For now, Huntsman said, his plans are to spend more time in Utah. He owns a condo in downtown's City Creek development, though he and his family currently live in Washington, D.C.
There has been speculation Huntsman would make another bid for the presidency in 2016, although Norm Ornstein, a political scholar at a conservative national think tank, recently suggested 2020 might be his best shot.
Huntsman, who was in Utah to attend the inauguration of his former lieutenant governor, Gov. Gary Herbert, said he's committed to working within the GOP to improve its chances of winning the presidency.
“If the long haul is a commitment to doing what's right for the country, and if there is a role for a single voice to play in maybe reshaping my party, which desperately needs to be retooled, then we're up for that,” he said. “But I don't know what shape or form that's going to take. There's a lot of work to be done.”
Over the next year, Huntsman said, he will be talking about the issues he hopes will help broaden the GOP's appeal to voters, including immigration, education and competitiveness, all of which he championed as governor.
The Republican Party, Huntsman said, “must stand for something and must have a long-term vision that brings people together of all backgrounds, of all places. We have just failed to do that in the last few election cycles.”
Huntsman dropped out of the presidential race in January 2012 after a disappointing third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. He endorsed the party's eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, who failed to stop President Barack Obama from being re-elected.
Asked whether the GOP is ready to listen to what he has to say, particularly because he is often seen as more moderate, Huntsman said the party is currently divided.
“It's hard to know what the party is,” he said. “The party right now looks a little bit like Yugoslavia after the fall of communism. You've got six or seven independent entities out there that are all trying to figure out what the future looks like.”
It will be some time before the party decides whose vision to follow, Huntsman said.
“The issues have to play out," he said. "The discussions have to be had, the grass roots have to weigh in, and through all of that, you'll have personalities who will emerge.”
Huntsman said he's not thinking of himself as the choice to fill that role but said he'll be an active participant in the process. Next week, Huntsman and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will be introduced as the new leaders of No Labels, a national organization that promotes bipartisanship.
Huntsman stepped down as governor in 2009 to become U.S. ambassador to China under Obama. He had been rumored to be a possible pick for secretary of state, but the president has nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
That chapter of his life, serving in the Democratic administration, is over, he said. Still, said Huntsman, the subject of an interview Sunday with the New York Times Magazine, “that doesn't stop the chatter.”
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