In his announcement speech Tuesday, Jon Huntsman pledged a campaign of civility. But already he's on the receiving end of attacks from across the ideological spectrum while his own campaign takes aim at GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
Among those targeting Huntsman is President Obama's reelection campaign, which says he would promote the same policies that led the nation into recession.
"In his speech, Governor Huntsman called for a more competitive and compassionate country, but he has embraced a budget plan that would slash our commitment to education, wipe out investments that will foster the jobs of the future and extend tax cuts for the richest Americans while shifting the burden onto seniors and middle class families," campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.
"Like the other Republican candidates, instead of proposing a plan that will allow middle-class families to reclaim their economic security, Governor Huntsman is proposing a return to the failed economic policies that led us into the recession."
Huntsman, Obama's former ambassador to China, is the first Republican candidate to generate a formal response from the president's reelection operation, itself ramping up for the 2012 race.
The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, has been promoting a series of conference calls from local Democratic officials from across the country, "bracketing" in the parlance of campaigns.
From Huntsman's right comes an attack from Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, who released a web video (see below) parodying those the Huntsman campaign have put out showing a man riding a motorcycle through the desert. In Santorum's version, the cyclist rides along as the words "Hasn't signed the anti-abortion pledge. Just like Mitt Romney" appear. Then the rider crashes.
The pledge refers to the Susan B. Anthony List "pro-life leadership presidential pledge." Santorum, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty all signed the pledge. Romney did not.
Huntsman's camp responded by saying that "people who rely on pledges usually don't have a record."
Though Huntsman's kickoff focused squarely on Obama, his campaign is minding its Republican rivals -- chiefly Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and nominal front-runner.
One of a series of new slickly produced videos posted to his new website calls Huntsman an "authentic conservative," touting tax cuts he passed as governor from 2005-2009 as well as his own healthcare reform law.
"No flips, no flops. That's Jon Huntsman," a narrator says. "To Jon Huntsman, conservative means creating free-market healthcare reform. The kind that President Obama and Massachusetts should have studied. No mandates, lower costs, government out of our healthcare decisions."