WASHINGTON — Ex-US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said on Sunday he is close to throwing his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination, distancing himself from former boss Barack Obama.
“We’re about a week and a half out,” he told CNN’s State of the Union, adding “we’re right at the endpoint.”
Huntsman, who would be joining a crowded Republican field, has mounted an intensive campaign to prepare the ground for his run since stepping down as US ambassador to Beijing April 30.
In the CNN interview in New Hampshire, a key opening electoral battleground, the 51-year-old former Utah governor took pains to distance himself from Obama on the economy and on Afghanistan.
On foreign policy, he said, “We have different world views.”
He cited no differences with the administration on China policy but said his “hunch” was that Americans wanted the United States out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, and questioned whether holding out until 2014 was tenable.
“I would argue you can if you’re willing to pay another quarter of a trillion dollars to do so,” he said.
“But if it isn’t in our direct national security interest and if there isn’t a logical exit strategy and if we don’t know what the cost is going to be in terms of money and human lives, then I think you have to say it’s probably time we reevaluate this.”
He added, however, that a residual US force should remain in the country.
Huntsman also said Obama had “failed on the economic front.”
“You look at unemployment, you look at the environment in which jobs supposedly can be created, when you look at the debt level, you look at all the economic indicators, and it would suggest that we’re in bad shape.”