POLITICS
06/21/2011 09:51 am ET | Updated Aug 21, 2011

Jon Huntsman For President: 2012 Announcement Kicks Off Campaign (VIDEO)

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman declared his candidacy for president of the United States on Tuesday in Liberty State Park, New Jersey. 

"For the first time in our history, we are passing down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got," the Republican hopeful said. "This, ladies and gentlemen, is totally unacceptable and totally un-American."

Huntsman launched his campaign in the same location that Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for president in 1980.

ABC News reports on one glitch in the campaign kick-off:

Members of the media were handed a press pass that read “John Huntsman for President”. -- adding an unnecessary H in the candidate's first name.

(Click here to view an image of the pass.)

Earlier this year, Huntsman resigned as President Barack Obama's U.S. ambassador to China.

Despite working in the Obama administration, Huntsman says he and the president have "a difference of opinion on how to help the country [they] both love."

The AP recently reported:

Huntsman's moderate stances on some issues and his service in the Obama administration could hurt him with the Republican Party's right-leaning base.

[President Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist David] Axelrod said that when he was in China in the fall of 2009, he had a chance to talk with Huntsman. "He was very effusive about what the president was doing. He was encouraging on health care. He was encouraging on the whole range of issues. He was a little quizzical about what was going on in his own party. And you got the strong sense that he was going to wait until 2016 for the storm to blow over."

Over the weekend, Axelroad said that he was "surprised" to learn about Huntsman's intention to run for president in 2012, but added that he certainly takes the Republican hopeful's candidacy seriously.

A spokesman for Huntsman responded to the remarks from Axelrod by saying, "Axelrod's comments are absurd. Gov. Huntsman's record on health care and the economy (was) the opposite of President Obama's top-heavy, government-centric, failed approach. That is the record he will run on."

However, HuffPost's Jason Cherkis reported earlier this month:

In 2004, during his successful campaign for governor, Huntsman promised to reform Utah's health care system. He vowed to fix a system that had left hundreds of thousands of Utah residents without health insurance, even telling the incoming executive director of Utah's Department of Health that his goal was to insure everyone. During his first term, Huntsman became smitten with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Health Connector plan, which included a mandate.

Huntsman and his administration went on to support a 2007 United Way of Salt Lake City plan which called for a mandate. That same year, his cabinet and others pushed draft legislation that mirrored the Massachusetts model and the United Way plan and included a mandate. When the Utah legislature balked at such a mandate, it was taken off the table. Instead, in 2008, Huntsman passed a reform bill that established a health care exchange for small businesses known as the Utah Health Exchange that left uninsured individuals unaddressed.

Throughout our reporting, Huntsman and his campaign have denied that the then-Governor ever supported a mandate.

In large part, Huntsman has attempted to distance himself from the president amid recent speculation about his plans for 2012. Obama, however, has made light of the prospect that his former ambassador could run against him in the next election cycle.

"I'm sure the fact that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary," the president joked earlier this year.

Huntsman addressed his presidential ambitions in an email to supporters ahead of his announcement on Tuesday morning.

"I've recently had the honor of serving as U.S. Ambassador to China. That view of America from 10,000 miles away is a picture of liberty, opportunity and justice; people secure in their rights and in love with their freedom, who've done more good for more people than any other nation in history," he said. "Perhaps our strength at home has waned, but that perspective from afar has helped me see a path back to greatness."

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