GOP Foreign Policy Debate Could Play to Huntsman's Strengths (If He's Asked)

Jon Huntsman left his job as U.S. ambassador to China to seek the presidency. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Hokkein, which he picked up as a young Mormon missionary in Asia. He's been U.S. ambassador to Singapore, and U.S. trade ambassador under President George W. Bush.

So the former Utah governor with extensive international experience might seem to have a leg up heading into Tuesday's foreign policy-focused Republican debate on CNN.

But will voters notice?

On NBC's Saturday Night Live this weekend, Seth Meyers introduced Huntsman this way: "I'd like to start with something you never get to hear at the debates: 'Gov. Huntsman, the first question is for you.'"

Huntsman's end-of-the-stage status at many of the previous 10 debates is understandable. A USA Today-Gallup poll on Monday had Huntsman polling at 1 percent nationally among Republicans and those leaning Republican, tied with Rick Santorum and "other" — solidly in last place.

His polling in New Hampshire is better, if marginally.

A Suffolk University/7NEWS poll of likely Republican primary voters released on Monday showed Huntsman at 9 percent in the state ahead of the Jan. 10 primary, in fourth place in an eight-candidate field.

Huntsman played up his New Hampshire-or-bust strategy in the SNL cameo, where Meyers noted that Huntsman had just made his 100th appearance in the Granite State.

"Isn't it true that nationally you're currently polling in the low single digits?" Meyers asked Huntsman.

"It is true, Seth, but only a few months ago I was polling at 'margin of error,'" said Huntsman, "so to have any digit at all is a pretty big deal."

Dany Groner at Huffpost Politics called Huntsman's SNL appearance a "bold step forward to introduce himself to American voters."

Groner wrote:

"Many bloggers enjoyed Huntsman's light-hearted banter with Meyers, poking fun at himself. If he wants to be the "most appealing GOP presidential candidate to liberals, he's already won," declared The Huffington Post's editors. "[N]ow he's made a self-aware SNL appearance where he proved he had a genuine sense of humor to boot." Mediaite's Sarah Devlin agreed: "Huntsman was a great sport and his delivery was quite good." She only wished it had been longer. And "It became clear as the bit went on," said Ned Colby and Dale W. Eisinger at NBCDFW.com, "it was more impassioned plea than simple gag for the trailing candidate."

Salt Lake Tribune columnist Sean Means also applauded Huntsman's SNL appearance, if in a backhanded way.

"Once again, Jon Huntsman shows why he's the coolest guy running for president (even if he's got no chance of winning)," writes Means. "Huntsman did score some cool points, but he got upstaged by Meyers' other guest presenter on "Weekend Update": Kermit the Frog."

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