Jon Hunts­man June 21, 2011; Ronald Rea­gan Sep­tem­ber 1, 1980. Top photo: Chang W. Lee, New York Times.

Jon Hunts­man for­mally kicked off his cam­paign today in New Jer­sey, in sight of the Statue of Lib­erty — which accord­ing to some is a reminder from the French not to embrace social­ism — evok­ing the spirit of Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan as he announced his can­di­dacy for the 2012 Repub­li­can Party nom­i­na­tion for Pres­i­dent of the United States.

He invoked Rea­gan directly, say­ing that Rea­gan was a can­di­date in a sim­i­larly dif­fi­cult time in the nation’s history.

Politico’s Alexan­der Burns reports that he plans travel to New Hamp­shire later today, South Car­olina on Wednes­day, Orlando, Miami and Naples, Florida on Thurs­day, and Utah plus Nevada on Fri­day. He will set up his national cam­paign office in Orlando, home of his wife, Mary Kaye.

Huntsman’s can­di­dacy is con­sid­ered a long-​​shot. At this writ­ing, he is trad­ing at 12% on Intrade and has a 1.3% polling aver­age at Real Clear Pol­i­tics. Nate Sil­ver gives him odds of 25–1.

I don’t think you need to run down anyone’s rep­u­ta­tion to run for pres­i­dent. I respect my fel­low Repub­li­can can­di­dates. And I respect the pres­i­dent. He and I have a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion on how to help the coun­try we both love. But the ques­tion each of us wants the vot­ers to answer is who will be the bet­ter pres­i­dent, not who’s the bet­ter Amer­i­can. — Jon Hunts­man, in pre­pared remarks reported at Politico

The arti­cle below is an updated and reprinted ver­sion of one that appeared Feb­ru­ary 2, 2011.

In late Jan­u­ary, Jon Hunts­man, Jr., sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion as Ambas­sador to China, a move that was widely regarded (accu­rately, as it turns out) as pre­sag­ing his can­di­dacy for the Repub­li­can Pres­i­den­tial nomination.

Jon Hunts­man, Jr. Source: gawker​.com

Hunts­man was a suc­cess­ful and well-​​liked Gov­er­nor of Utah in 2009 when Pres­i­dent Obama chose him for what is prob­a­bly the most crit­i­cal diplo­matic posi­tion short of Sec­re­tary of State. Hunts­man, in many ways, was an ideal can­di­date for the posi­tion. He served an LDS Mis­sion to Tai­wan and speaks Man­darin. He and his wife, Mary Kaye Cooper Hunts­man, have adopted a Chi­nese child, Gra­cie Mei Hunts­man (born 2000) into their family.

Jon Hunts­man, Jr., is a lead­ing mem­ber of a promi­nent fam­ily in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-​​Day Saints (LDS or “Mor­mon”*) reli­gious hier­ar­chy. He was born in Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia on March 26, 1960. His fam­ily owns Hunts­man Inter­na­tional LLC, a diver­si­fied chem­i­cal com­pany founded, and still headed, by Jon Hunts­man, Sr. The elder Hunts­man and his fam­ily have been lead­ers in phil­an­thropic giv­ing in Utah, includ­ing fund­ing the Hunts­man Can­cer Insti­tute and donat­ing $250 mil­lion (to date) to its clin­i­cal and research programs.

Jon and Mary Kaye Hunts­man lis­ten to Pres­i­dent Obama announce that Jon is to be named Chi­nese Ambas­sador, May 16, 2009. Source: Life.

Jon Hunts­man, Jr. and his wife, Mary Kaye Cooper (an Orlando, Florida native not born into the LDS Church), met at High­land High School in Salt Lake City in the late 1970s, where they were both active in stu­dent gov­ern­ment. They were mar­ried in 1983.

Along with Gra­cie Mei, they have six nat­ural chil­dren: Mary Anne (born 1985), Abi­gail (born 1986), Eliz­a­beth (born 1989), Jon III (born 1991), and William (born 1993). Another child, Asha Bharati (born 2006) was adopted from India.

After hold­ing sev­eral posi­tions in the Rea­gan and Bush admin­is­tra­tion, Hunts­man was elected Gov­er­nor of Utah in 2004 with 57% of the vote, defeat­ing Scott Math­e­son, Jr., (him­self a mem­ber of a dying Demo­c­ra­tic polit­i­cal dynasty in the state; his father was Gov­er­nor and his brother is cur­rently a Blue Dog Demo­c­ra­tic Con­gress­man rep­re­sent­ing Utah’s Sec­ond Con­gres­sional Dis­trict). In his re-​​election cam­paign in 2008, Hunts­man won 77% of the vote.

Hunts­man, despite rep­re­sent­ing one of the most socially con­ser­v­a­tive states, con­sis­tently staked out posi­tions that were con­sid­ered quite lib­eral by Utah stan­dards. For exam­ple, he was a strong advo­cate for reform of Utah’s arcane liquor laws. The liquor laws included a pro­vi­sion that liquor could not be served over the bar, but had to be car­ried around the bar to the cus­tomer. One local alter­na­tive weekly sug­gested that the Utah Alco­holic Bev­er­age Com­mis­sion being con­trolled by LDS faith­ful “is like putting cats in charge of dog food.”

Hunts­man was active in push­ing for Utah and other West­ern states to form a com­pact to fight anthro­pogenic global warm­ing from car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. He is in favor of civil unions for gay cou­ples. Hunts­man has been a strong advo­cate for pub­lic edu­ca­tion in Utah and opposed school voucher pro­grams. Like many of his posi­tions, this put him squarely at odds with the much more con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can estab­lish­ment in the state. (The Utah Repub­li­can Party famously ousted Sen. Robert Ben­nett and is closely allied with the Club for Growth, Tea Party, and 912 groups.) The State Leg­is­la­ture reg­u­larly fought Gov. Huntsman’s ini­tia­tives. More recently, Huntsman’s for­mer Chief of Staff, Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz (R-​​UT), called Hunts­man “wrong on global warm­ing. It’s a farce.”

On abor­tion and gun con­trol, his posi­tions are much closer to tra­di­tional Repub­li­can party stances.

Huntsman’s fam­ily and per­sonal wealth, his charisma and per­sonal pop­u­lar­ity in the west, and his rel­a­tively mod­er­ate posi­tions will all make him a for­mi­da­ble can­di­date in the gen­eral elec­tion, should he sur­vive the Repub­li­can pri­mary process—as noted by Pres­i­dent Obama dur­ing the Chi­nese state visit in January.

On the minus side, his LDS faith and his anti-​​Tea Party posi­tions may make it dif­fi­cult for him to sur­vive the Repub­li­can pri­mary, espe­cially if the process is dom­i­nated by evan­gel­i­cal non-​​LDS Chris­tians, who are clearly uncom­fort­able with a Mor­mon candidate.

*In some cir­cles, the term “Mor­mon” is felt to be pejo­ra­tive. The LDS Church uses “LDS” exclu­sively as short­hand for the church’s full name.