Jon Huntsman announced today that he’s running for the presidency, but the former Utah governor and ambassador to China is far from a household name. In fact, when his campaign first began, even his aides knew little about him. “I just met him this morning,” Huntsman’s pollster admitted to New York Times writer Matt Bai. But maybe that doesn’t matter: Huntsman himself insists there’s a vacuum, a void, in the Republican field that he’s filling. And, as one influential operative points out, he had never met Huntsman before he signed on to back him—“But I’ve met all the other guys!”
Bai traces the early days of Huntsman’s campaign in his NYT Magazine piece, from an uncertain speech Huntsman gave in New Hampshire last month, overwhelmed by the throngs of reporters, to the recent declaration by Mark Halperin that a newly confident Huntsman is more comfortable campaigning than either of our two most recent presidents. Huntsman—who was barred from engaging in US politics as a federal employee and insists his campaign was basically put together for him entirely by others while he finished up his job in China (David Axelrod mockingly calls that story the “political immaculate conception”)—sees himself as a person who simply answered the call of the Republican “marketplace.” In his typically self-effacing manner, he explains, “Nature abhors a vacuum, and there happens to be a vacuum that’s in the process of being filled. By whom, I don’t know.” Click for more on his surprisingly nice 2012 announcement.