Jon Huntsman photo

Press Release - Mary Kaye: Pay No Mind to Polls

August 04, 2011

When Jon Huntsman keynoted the College Republican's biennial gathering last week, he said to laughter it was his wife that secured him reelection to the governor's mansion with nearly seventy-eight percent of the vote.

Watch an indomitably chipper, confident Mary Kaye in action -- at house parties in New Hampshire, on the stump on Florida or dishing on campaign strategy -- and you'll know he wasn't embellishing. Press have pegged her the "unreluctant spouse" for the unconditional support she's loaned her husband's bid.

She earned the moniker in spades this week, campaigning on Tuesday in Lakeland, Florida and sitting for an interview Wednesday from campaign HQ in which she reflected on the parallels between her husband's first go at Utah's governorship and his presidential campaign today. (Hint: early-season polls are idle indicators of electoral fortunes.)

"He was against eight others in the race," she said of Huntsman's 2004 bid. "He was against an incumbent governor, speaker of the house, several others -- same thing."

She acknowledged then, as now, voters' familiarity with her husband -- whose resume then included no elected office, but instead robust business credentials with diplomatic and international trade stints -- was limited.

"He was low because people didn't know him," she told Orlando's local Fox News affiliate WOFL. "It was a steady rise. I see the same thing happening this time as people get to know him."

Huntsman competed in 2004 in a nine-person gubernatorial primary in which he stared down, among others, the incumbent governor and incumbent and emeritus Speakers of the state House. After advancing to a run-off primary with the sitting Speaker, against whom he earned 66 percent of the vote, he opposed in the general election the scion of a former governor, Scott Matheson. Like the others, Matheson was defeated.

The rhetorical marker that vaulted Huntsman to the governor's mansion in 2004 became the record on which he campaigns today: economic revitalization. The centerpiece of his 2004 bid was a ten-point plan in which he advocated for reform of the tax structure (he later adopted the greatest tax relief package in the state's history), fostering an atmosphere in which businesses can expand (Utah registered first in Forbes' index of the bests states in which to do business), and to reengineer a more productive, efficient government.

Mary Kaye knows better than anyone Jon Huntsman's tenacity and persevering spirit. Don't bet against her.

Jon Huntsman, Press Release - Mary Kaye: Pay No Mind to Polls Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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