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Tom Smart, Tom Smart, Deseret News
Jon Huntsman walks into a fundraiser Aristo's restaurant on 224 South 1300 East Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman made a campaign stop in his hometown Tuesday for a fundraising dinner aimed at engaging younger voters.

The event was held a stone's throw from the University of Utah Campus at Aristo's Greek Restaurant at 224 S. 1300 East. The former governor of Utah arrived slightly behind schedule and spoke briefly with the media before joining approximately 50 guests inside the restaurant. While some of the attendees were college age and younger, the overall appearance of those arriving suggested a crowd in its 30s and 40s.

"This is an unsettled field," Huntsman said when asked about his position among the GOP candidates. "These are the dog days of summer. It's going to remain unsettled for probably another month."

Huntsman has polled toward the bottom of the crowded GOP pack since he announced his candidacy in June. The race for the Republican nomination underwent some changes recently, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry announcing his candidacy and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ending his bid in the same weekend.

Huntsman skirted questions about his GOP rivals — specifically Perry and frontrunner Mitt Romney — instead commenting on the key issues of his campaign. He said the stakes are "extremely high" for the upcoming election.

"Nobody is paying much attention to the politics of the 2012 elections cycle right now," Huntsman said. "We have a broken economy. This country has hit the wall. People are frightened, they're scared for the first time in a very long time.

Going into the fall, Huntsman said the debates will focus on the economy and he is in a position to offer solutions. He mentioned his record as governor and ambassador to China, saying that he comes from a position of jump-starting a state and having experience in both private business and international affairs.

On the subject of jobs, Huntsman said that governments do not create jobs but instead can create an environment that speaks to jobs.

"You need tax reform, you need regulatory reform, and I think you need energy independence," he said.

When asked if he was enjoying the campaign, Huntsman answered "of course."

"On a day like today, I mean, can you imagine doing anything else?" Huntsman said.

Before entering Aristo's, and on his way out after the event, Huntsman walked around the restaurant shaking hands and greeting guests at their tables.

Huntsman's daughter Mary Anne said she was pleased with the turnout at the fundraiser, which reportedly cost $100 per attendee.

"I was so happy to have so many people here to support," she said.

She reiterated the event's goal of reaching out to younger voters who, she said, will play an important role in electing the country's next president.

"I think this election cycle is all about the coming up generation," she said.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com