ByÂ Ralph Z. Hallow-The Washington Times
And thatâ€™s a claim he denies with vigor and a hint of anger.
During a recent interview with The Washington Times,Â Mr. Huntsmanchecked off his accomplishments as Utah governor from 2005 to 2009: making record tax cuts, signing into law the first school voucher program and overseeing the rise of his stateâ€™s economy to first-in-the-nation status.
He is confident that the race wonâ€™t turn on his religion and downplays whispers from evangelical Protestants who vow not to support a Mormon.
â€œThese presidential nomination contests arenâ€™t about religion; theyâ€™re about leadership,â€Â Mr. Huntsman told The Times in the kitchen of his home in Washingtonâ€™s tony Kalorama neighborhood.
Mr. Huntsman, 51, is proud of his leadership, which he predicts conservatives will respect despite his tenure as PresidentÂ Obamaâ€™s ambassador toÂ China and his positive comments about what Republican voters see as an overly liberal president.
â€œAll people have to do is look at the record. Sometimes they donâ€™t, and they just rely on tags,â€ he said.
â€œWhen you look at what we did on record tax cuts, being pro-life and pro-Second Amendment, passing the largest tax cuts in the history of our state. We went to the No. 1 position economically,â€ he said. â€œEducation reform, the first governor to sign a voucher program, we did it around special education.â€
He noted that the Pew Research Center named Utah the â€œbest managed state in America.â€
Mr. Huntsman said he wonâ€™t stand a chance if voters allow the 2012 Republican presidential nomination to revolve around religion.
Mr. Huntsman steers conversation away from one of his obvious advantages. If elected, he would be the only U.S. president with an intimate, firsthand knowledge of the culture, language and economy ofChina, the one country capable of eventually challenging U.S. economic and military supremacy.
He speaks fluent Mandarin and has spent much of his adult life on the communist mainland and in non-communist Taiwan, making a PresidentHuntsman less likely to miss cultural nuances during critical trade and security talks.
But he and chief campaign strategist John Weaver know that few voters choose the nationâ€™s chief executive on the basis ofÂ China planks, or foreign policy generally. Instead, he said, he will run on what former governors normally do â€” his record as a manager of a state â€” at a time when the nation is in dire need of successful management.
Mr. Huntsman declined to reveal his money-raising target for the end of this year, though he did say, â€œIf the money comes in, it will be because we have a message of leadership people want. If we donâ€™t raise the money, then weâ€™re not on a winning trajectory.â€
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