Jon Huntsman declared himself a candidate for president Tuesday, offering himself as a strong leader capable of restoring the nation to greatness.
The former Utah governor used a scenic backdrop that included the Statue of Liberty to begin a campaign against a president he served under just months earlier as ambassador to China.
His speech included its share of swipes at President Obama, as he said the nation was in need of new leadership "that knows we need more than hope. Leadership that knows that we need answers."
Photos: Potential 2012 GOP candidates
"We will not be the first American generation that lets down the next generation," he said. "We have the power, we have the means, we have the character to astonish the world again by making from adversity a new and better country."
Huntsman's speech spanned roughly 15 minutes, offering a cursory overview of his resume and the outlines of his economic-focused message.
Under his leadership Utah weathered the economic downturn better than most, he argued, proving that "government doesn't have to choose between fiscal responsibility and economic growth."
He said the nation must make "hard decisions that are necessary to avert disaster," or else the nation will be overwhelmed by entitlement and debt spending, and forced to go deeper into debt.
"Our influence in the world will wane. Our security will be more precarious. The 21st century then will be known as the end of the American century. We can't accept this, and we won't," he said.
Playing off Obama's "win the future" slogan, he said the nation "can and will own the future."
In a brief discussion of foreign policy, he appealed to a war-weary public in saying that the "best long-term national security strategy is rebuilding our core here at home."
Tuesday's announcement caps an unusual and heavily thematic multiweek roll-out. Short videos posted to his website over the last week show a man riding his motorcycle through scenic Utah, with vague one-line messages such as "The candidate for president who rides motocross to relax." On his Facebook page Monday, dozens of photos from throughout his life were posted.
"In order to beat the president, we're going to have to beat him at his own game. And that involves being big and being bigger than the president," a campaign aide said Monday of the buildup. "We're introducing a fresh candidate; we're introducing an outsider to a lot of the country.... The ramp-up is part of our effort to introduce him and his unique background."
Huntsman has already drawn fire from Democrats and the Republican candidates he will have to defeat to win the nomination. In his speech, Huntsman promised to "conduct this campaign on the high road."
"I don't think you need to run down anyone's reputation to run for president," he said. "I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the president. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is, who will be the better president, not who's the better American."
After his announcement, Huntsman is to travel to New Hampshire. Other stops this week are planned in South Carolina, Florida, Utah and Nevada.