Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is joining the fast-growing pack of Republicans battling to take on President Barack Obama. Huntsman, who was Obama’s ambassador to China until a month ago, will make his formal announcement next Tuesday — with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop, his campaign team said. Though he served in Washington for three Republican presidents, he faces a challenge in making himself known nationally and winning over GOP primary voters. Still, the fact that he’s entering the race shows the turmoil that still fills the Republican field as time ticks down to the first 2012 primaries and caucuses. Other GOP candidates were hard at it on Tuesday after their first big debate the night before in New Hampshire, keeping up their verbal pounding of Obama. Front-runner Mitt Romney campaigned at a family-owned hardware story in Derry and declared, “You can’t blame George Bush anymore. President Obama is going to have to take responsibility for the fact that we’re still in a very troubled economy.” His competitors had hoped the debate would deflate the air of inevitability the former Massachusetts governor has projected in his second White House run. But that didn’t seem to happen. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann announced her candidacy at the debate and briefly claimed the spotlight, but then she had to return to her job in Washington.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had to be goaded to repeat his criticism of Romney’s health care plan as “Obamneycare,” a term he coined conflating Obama and Romney’s health care records. “It’s a term I used on a Sunday morning show to make the point that President Obama admitted that he used the Massachusetts health care plan as the blueprint for Obamacare,” Pawlenty told CBS News. “And then when pressed by the moderator, I did use that term again.” And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, stopping by a breakfast for small businesses, tried to keep the focus on Obama and his stewardship of the economy — not his own faltering campaign or his fellow Republicans.