Liberty State Park, N.J. – With the Statue of Liberty in the background, Jon Huntsman announced his presidential candidacy this morning in a speech that vacillated between solemnity about America’s current downturn and optimism for the upcoming years.
“We will not be the first American generation that lets down the next generation,” Huntsman said. He fears the U.S. is on of the cusp of becoming a nation “less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive, and less confident.”
He touted a style of leadership that “doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems, but rather looks to local solutions in our cities, towns, and states.”
While Huntsman noted that “hard decisions” must be made since “in less than a decade, every dollar of federal revenue will go to covering the costs of Medicare, Social Security, and interest payments on our debt,” he did not outline what particular decisions he envisioned, although he has previously endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
Huntsman said that as governor of Utah, he slashed taxes and made sure the state was business-friendly. “We proved government doesn’t have to choose between fiscal responsibility and economic growth,” he said, noting the state’s AAA bond rating.
Another lesson Huntsman said he had learned was how “for the average American family there is nothing more important than a job.”
Huntsman, who will refrain from attacking opponents by name during the course of the campaign according to his advisers, remained mild-mannered when he talked directly about President Obama. “I respect the president,” Huntsman said. “He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love.”
He added that he hoped the race would be about who would be the “better president,” not the “better American.”
Huntsman also paid tribute to Ronald Reagan, in whose administration he worked as a staff assistant.
“President Reagan launched the 1980 general election here in an earlier time of trouble and worry,” Huntsman said. “He assured us we could ‘make America great again,’ and under his leadership we did.”
Huntsman suggested that the 2012 election could prove to be as significant a political realignment of the United States as the 1980 election was.
“Everything is at stake,” he said. “This is the hour when we choose our future.”
— Katrina Trinko is a staff reporter for National Review.