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Jon Huntsman in 2016: 'I'm committed to serving my country'

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Jon Huntsman, the quirky moderate Republican presidential candidate who never really caught fire in the GOP primaries, appears open to a second bid, this time one that is better planned and broader than his New Hampshire-focused effort.

"My gut is telling me you've got to clear out all the cobwebs in your head before you even think about anything of that kind. But I will tell you this -- I'm committed to serving my country. That's been my life from the very beginning," he told the moderate Republican Ripon Society's magazine, The Ripon Forum.

In an interview provided Tuesday to Secrets, Huntsman laid out the questions he will ask before jumping in again.

He said: "You approach that kind of decision making you have to say first and foremost: 'are you electable?' And that's a real conservation you have to have. Number two, 'are you hitting the needs of your nation at the right time historically?' You don't run just to run. You run because you bring something to the table that might be unique and helpful. So, given the few things that you might be good at, or have some background in, are they issues that are timely and important for the country? And then third, it's kind of about your family, because they have to do it with you. And is your family prepared to take that journey? I've got daughters who are pretty darn good at it. The boys at the Naval Academy who are completely divorced from politics -- thank goodness for that. And [wife] Mary Kaye, who is quite good at what she does, too -- far better than I am. So, that's a conversation that at the right time, if we ever get there, will be a very important one."

Asked what tripped up his bid in 2008, Huntsman cited timing and an inability to shift fast from being President Obama's ambassador to China to a candidate.

"First of all, we got a late start. Second of all, the lane that we would otherwise occupy was encumbered, so you didn't have as much of an ability to raise money and to bring new people on board who were already taken by years and years of work by others. And third, our strategy was very much focused on New Hampshire, which, you know, was fine for that moment in our journey, but we missed an opportunity I think in Iowa, and we missed an opportunity perhaps in some of the follow-on states to really create an infrastructure, again, which would have been facilitated by getting an earlier start. And fourth, let's just face it - I was an imperfect messenger," said Huntsman.

He added: "You know, you're moving from probably the most compartmented job in government, being U.S. Ambassador to China -- where you literally and figuratively speak in a different language, you're working on issues most Americans will never learn about, with all kinds of terrifically talented public servants from the United States, you're hunkered down day in and day out - you go from that right onto the most open and transparent stage in the world, which is the presidential primary stage. It takes a bit of a transition, in terms of the way you talk about issues, the way you present things. They expect you to step out there and pander and eviscerate the President and speak in ways that suggest there's deep anger and hatred. And I'd say, well, I'm not a deeply angry person. I'm a person in pursuit in solutions. I did it as governor, I did it as an envoy abroad, and I would do it as president."