Jon Huntsman
Cheryl Senter  /  AP
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, center, talks to people at a Meet and Greet on Thursday in Lebanon, N.H.
updated 5/20/2011 2:33:37 PM ET 2011-05-20T18:33:37

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, weighing a run for the Republican presidential nomination, says U.S. military forces are spread too thin around the world and he thinks President Barack Obama erred in intervening in Libya.

Traveling in New Hampshire, Huntsman told ABC News that Libya "is not core to our national security interest." He also said he's close to a decision on whether to get into the GOP presidential sweepstakes and that only his wife, Mary Kaye, could stop him if he chose to run.

In the interview broadcast Friday on "Good Morning America," Huntsman backed away from previous statements supporting a "cap and trade" policy aimed at expediting corporate efforts to curb harmful emissions, saying the global economic slump has dramatized the need to put a heavier focus on business growth, at least for a while.

Story: A stranger in N.H., Huntsman hits the trail
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'I'd do it again'
He also defended his service as U.S. ambassador to Beijing under Obama.

"I'd do it again," Huntsman said. "The president asked me, the president of all the people. And during a time of war, during a time of economic difficulty for our country, if I'm asked by my president to serve, I'll stand up and do it."

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

On other points, Huntsman:

—Suggested that a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is inevitable. "We have too much in the way of boots on the ground in corners of the world where we probably don't need it," he said.

—He would repeal Obama's health care overhaul, if he had a chance. And he backs the alternative deficit-reduction plan put forth by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, which includes a proposal to substantially overhaul Medicare.

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination, has retracted a statement he made Sunday in which he referred to Ryan's plan as a "radical" approach.

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—Said he is "very proud of my Mormon heritage."

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Video: Is Huntsman running away from his roots?

  1. Closed captioning of: Is Huntsman running away from his roots?

    >>> republican jon huntsman , a very likely presidential candidate is not in utah anymore. the former utah governor and obama ambassador to china is under fire for leaving his home state behind to set up camp 2300 miles away in florida as he consider a run for the republican presidential nomination . his critics say it is a way to downplay his mormon faith. he was asked about his beliefs by a viewer on "good morning america" today.

    >> i believe in god. i'm a good christian. i'm very proud of my mormon heritage. i am mormon .

    >> and for more we're joined by politico's jeanne cummings. does the advantage of being in florida outweigh the disadvantage of being accused of running away from his roots?

    >> i think that there clearly are a lot of advantages to going to florida . he's one of the few candidates who coming back from the ambassadorship could kind of locate anywhere he wanted to. his wife has ties in florida . so it is not a total carpetbagger thing. they have got some connections there. and it surely romney preempts utah and all of that and jon huntsman , therefore, can set up camp outside of that? in new hampshire yesterday, according to josh green and others writing about that rollout, he was mobbed by reporters that the national press was there, outnumbering the diners. you can see his wife right behind him. what about the interest in jon huntsman . arguably if others were in the race, other moderate republicans, he wouldn't even have a shot at this. but does he now become frontier if he actually declares?

    >> i think he definitely will be considered a serious candidate for a variety of reasons. he has a new voice. he's a fresh face. he has money. and we'll see if he has the ability to also raise a lot of money from supporters. that's an important test. but you can see as we have talked about before, andrea, this field is still coming together, the republican field, and there is a sense certainly among the elites in the party that more -- they want more candidates in, not fewer, because they're unsatisfied now with the mix.

    >> jeanne cummings, thank you very

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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