Obama Campaign Manager: Jon Huntsman Would Have Been Tougher Candidate

Huntsman family just prior to John Huntsman announcing his presidential bid on June 21, 2011 at Liberty State Park. (Mel Evans/AP)

In an interview with Politico‘s Mike Allen, Jim Messina, the 2012 Obama campaign’s manager, revealed that his team believed that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who also served as President Obama’s Ambassador to China, would likely have been a tougher general election opponent than Mitt Romney.

“Um, hmm, that’s a good question,” Messina said when Allen asked him which GOP candidate he believed would have had the best chance of beating Obama. “Look, I think we were honest with our concerns about [Jon] Huntsman. I think Huntsman would have been a very tough general election candidate. And as someone who helped manage his confirmation for the Chinese ambassador, I can tell you, you know, he’s a good guy, we look at his profile in a general election and thought he would be difficult.”

When Allen suggested that Obama’s team chose Huntsman as the ambassador to China in order to take him off the “chess board,” Messina responded, “No, I thought he was a committed American who would serve our country well, and he did.”

Abby Huntsman Livingston, Huntsman’s daughter who campaigned for her father before and during the Republican primaries, told the Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday that it was great to hear “confirmation” from the Obama campaign about her father’s appeal.

“My dad is a principled, thoughtful and experienced leader ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century,” Abby Livingston said. “In fact, many of the ideas he spoke to during the primaries, Republicans now recognize as a message more in line with a majority of Americans.”

In 2009, senior Obama adviser David Plouffe expressed concern over a potential Huntsman candidacy, with reporter Nikki Schwab describing Plouffe as “a wee bit queasy” over the possibility. “I think the one person in that party who might be a potential presidential candidate is Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah,” said Plouffe at the time. “I think he’s really out there and speaking a lot of truth about the direction of the party.”

Huntsman’s brief presidential campaign ended on January 16, 2012, when he dropped out of the race after placing third in the New Hampshire primary behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. After ending his candidacy, Huntsman tepidly endorsed Romney, who eventually became the party’s nominee but was defeated by President Obama in the general election.

Huntsman’s name was briefly rumored as a possible replacement for Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s Secretary of State. Huntsman currently sits on the boards of several private companies, including Ford Motor Company, and has said he has not ruled out the possibility of running again for public office.

Huntsman also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore from 1992-1993 under President George H. W. Bush, at the time the youngest U.S. ambassador the nation had appointed in over a century.

Rand Paul: “I’m interested” in 2016 presidential run; GOP should lay off marijuana

In an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) admits he’s open to running for president in 2016.

Asked directly whether he was going to run for president in 2016, Paul responded, “You know, I want to be part of the national debate. I think it’s a little too soon to talk about it, who’s gonna run and who’s not gonna run, and to tell you the truth I don’t know what will come. Am I interested in thinking about that? Yes.”

“You’re thinking about running for president?” Karl followed up.

“Yeah,” Paul said. “But am I someone that’s gonna make the decision, am I ready to make the decision now, no.”

“But there’s a real chance we’ll see a Rand Paul for President,” Karl asked, “carrying that mantle of libertarian conservatism?”

“We’ll see what happens,” Paul said, smiling. “Too early to tell.”

“Usually when people say that it’s almost a declaration of candidacy,” Karl said, and Paul nodded and laughed.

“Well, you know,” Paul responded, “I am different than some in that I’m not gonna deny that I’m interested.”

Paul went on to name some things he believed needed to change about the Republican party.

“I’m not gonna that I think we have to go a different direction because we are – we’re not winning, we’re just not winning,” Paul said. “We’re getting an ever dwindling percentage of the Hispanic vote. We need to let people know — Hispanics in particular — we’re not putting you on a bus and shipping you home.”

But Paul emphasized that he was still on the side the “hardcore immigration people” when it came to border security. “I will insist that border security’s first,” Paul said, “but I’m also not gonna rule out that we can’t figure out an eventual way if you’ve been living here for ten or twenty years that you can’t become like the rest of us.”

Aside from Hispanics, Paul said the Republican party also needs to do more to reach out to young voters. One way, Paul says, is to soften the rhetoric on marijuana. “We should tell young people, I’m not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don’t want to put you in jail for twenty years.” Paul went on to say that states such as Washington and Colorado, which recently passed controversial laws legalizing recreational marijuana, should absolutely have that right.

Regarding working with Democrats in the Senate, Paul pledged again that he would not compromise on taxes and would not vote for any bill that included an increase in taxes.

“Mormons for Ron Paul,” Libertarians Protest Outside of Paul Ryan’s Provo Fundraiser

As Wisconsin Congressman and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan had dinner with wealthy donors and spoke to local students in the new Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, a small group of Libertarian protesters had their say on the sidewalk outside the event.

One man wore a dollar bill taped over his mouth and carried an American flag and alternating signs reading “Occupy Provo” and “A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the Status Quo.” Another man carried a large “Mormons for Ron Paul” sign, while a nearby woman carried “Vote for Gary Johnson” and “Romney/Ryan are Not Truly Conservative” signs. As Romney/Ryan donors left the convention center following the event, the woman supporting Gary Johnson shouted, “Ryan voted for the Patriot Act!”