Jon Huntsman Has 2012 Momentum in Media, If Not in Polls

He's dead last in surveys, but 2012 GOP presidential contender says the race is just getting started.

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From his family's all-American, Annie Leibovitz photo spread in Vogue magazine to a prime-time CNN interview with Piers Morgan, 2012 presidential candidate Jon Huntsman's been popping up everywhere in the mainstream media these days. But, in recent public opinion polls, he's barely making a showing. In fact, the former ambassador to China is dead last among Republican hopefuls, according to the most recent RealClearPolitics polling average.

[Read about whether Huntsman's foreign policy experience will matter in 2012.]

So, what's with the disconnect?

For one, a lot of people outside of the media and the state of Utah, where he served as governor, just don't know who he is. In a Gallup poll released Tuesday, as in others before, Huntsman ranked last in national name recognition behind other potential GOP presidential nominees—only 40 percent of respondents said they had heard of him. Of course, this is where his recent media presence could help him gain some headway, especially if such broadly viewed appearances continue.

[See photos of 2012 GOP presidential candidates on the campaign trail.]

Huntsman's said that while August has been a slow month for his campaign, things should ramp up in September. And this late August media push might be the jumpstart. In addition to a handful of recent profiles, he'll appear on Fox News with Neil Cavuto Thursday afternoon, on PBS NewsHour Thursday evening, and he's scheduled for MSNBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

He has also remained relatively less controversial and more to the center than other Republican candidates in the race, a tactic that could be costing him attention and the sort of viral enthusiasm that seems to be helping others, like Texas Rep. Ron Paul or Texas Gov. Rick Perry, gain momentum. That might be changing too, however. On Piers Morgan's program, Huntsman claimed that he's hoping to fight back against claims that he's boring. His snarky "call me crazy" tweet last Thursday that dug into climate change and evolution theory deniers in the race showed some of Huntsman's spunk, for example. But, again, it underlined his more mainstream positions, which while gaining praise from the media certainly don't appear to be winning over too many of the country's conservatives.

[See political cartoons about the GOP 2012 primary field.]

Still, despite low poll numbers—which have been around 1 or 2 percent—Huntsman seems confident that he has a shot, namely because America hasn't really been paying attention to the race just yet.

In his interview with PBS, which airs later tonight, he said, "People aren't paying attention to the race. A lot of the insiders are, but Labor Day is kind of when people begin to focus on the race. I like our position as we move into September, October, November; because in the end, the Republican Party, I believe, is going to want to nominate someone who can go the distance, someone who can be electable, someone who brings real-world solutions to the problems that we have; someone, I believe, who can bring the numbers together that actually spells victory."

  • See who's in and out for the GOP in 2012.
  • Read: Will Jon Huntsman's foreign policy experience matter in 2012?
  • See a cartoon gallery of the 2012 GOP presidential primary field.