BLOOMINGTON, Minn. Utah's delegates Wednesday morning heard a preview of the speech Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. still hopes to deliver at the Republican National Convention.
Huntsman, a loyal supporter of the party's presumptive presidential nominee, John McCain, was bumped from a prime speaking spot Tuesday because of changes made to the convention schedule in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.
Instead of Huntsman, the convention heard from President Bush, who delivered his address in a live video feed from the White House.
The governor will not be speaking tonight, according to the schedule released today by the party. The governor also said this morning he had no word whether there would be a place for him on the podium before the convention ends Thursday night.
Just in case he does deliver or maybe, in case he does not he delivered parts of the speech to an appreciative audience during the Utah delegation's breakfast meeting Wednesday morning.
In a world of artificiality, McCain, the governor said, "is someone who really represents that great word, 'authenticity,' better than anyone we've seen in recent history."
Huntsman described his own emotional visit to the "Hanoi Hilton" where McCain was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War.
The governor, then a U.S. trade ambassador in Vietnam to finalize a trade agreement, made the trip the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States.
"My world had changed and I was trying to make sense of it," Huntsman said. "I wanted to make sense of what happened to my country."
When he saw McCain's flight suit on display at the former prisoner of war facility, the governor said he realized "in the post-9/11 world, we really need some people who believe in service and sacrifice."
Huntsman said he "left the Hanoi Hilton as a changed person, someone who saw John McCain as the ultimate, ultimate example of service and sacrifice."
The governor also defended McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin has been criticized for having limited experience and earlier this week revealed her unmarried teenage daughter is pregnant.
"She's going through a little challenge right now in her family," Huntsman said, questioning media reports that the daughter's pregnancy is a "political bombshell."
"I don't know of a family in America that can't relate to what Sarah Palin is going through," the governor said, praising her for supporting her daughter.
"Every family can relate," he said, as the Utah delegation applauded.
The vast majority of Utah Republicans backed Mitt Romney, the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and a Mormon, for president. But Huntsman bucked conventional political wisdom in the state by backing McCain in 2006 and sticking with him even when it looked like the Arizona senator's campaign was about to fold in late 2007.
That loyalty was to be rewarded here in Minnesota with a prime speaking spot in the convention that would have given Huntsman an opportunity to raise his national profile. But that is looking increasingly unlikely. Wednesday morning Huntsman said he won't be surprised if he ends up not speaking.Romney, whose speaking slot was also up in the air because of the changes to the convention schedule, was confirmed as a speaker tonight, his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Deseret News. He will be speaking between 8 and 9 p.m. central time.
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