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Jon Huntsman is back in spotlight

By: Don Loepp

February 24, 2012

One reason people run for president is for the publicity. Let’s put it this way: How many people outside northeast Ohio knew Dennis Kucinich before 2003?

Before announcing his candidacy in June, Jon Huntsman Jr. may have been the former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China, but he still was a “who’s he?” candidate.

Now, after campaigning in the population-light states of Iowa and New Hampshire and appearing on late-night talk shows, Huntsman is a household name all across the country. His gig speaking at NPE even got a mention in The Washington Post’s “In the Loop” politics blog.

The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. often gets big names to speak at NPE, but it’s rare to recruit one who gets a mention in the Post.

I fully expect that Huntsman’s speech in Orlando will be a rehearsal for a primetime spot on the podium at August’s Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Conventional wisdom says Huntsman isn’t a natural choice for vice president. Utah’s not packed with electoral votes, and if Romney is the nominee, I don’t think the Republicans will be pushing an all-Mormon ticket.

But, depending on the results in November, Huntsman could be on his way to a nice head start on the GOP primary race for 2016.

One thing you can be sure of is that Huntsman’s experience in China will continue to be an important asset.

Plastics News interviewed Huntsman — who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese — about China back in 1996. At the time, he anticipated a trend that quickly changed the global manufacturing landscape — the development of China’s skills in manufacturing.

Huntsman compared China in the 1990s to Japan in the 1950s, saying “I fully anticipate we’ll see some very high-quality goods in all industrial areas coming out of China.”

What’s up next for U.S. manufacturing, and our relationship with China? Few inside politics have a better perspective than Huntsman. I look forward to hearing what he has to say on the topic at NPE.

Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”