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Fake Huntsman ad aims to distance him from conservatives

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SALT LAKE CITY — A video has surfaced on the Internet that — at first glance — appears to be a presidential campaign ad for Jon Huntsman Jr.

In fact, it's a tricky attempt by a conservative blogger to undermine his potential campaign.

The former Utah governor and ex-ambassador to China still hasn't announced he's running. But the fake ad is an indication Huntsman is starting to get noticed on the national stage — by his political enemies. And it suggests the right wing of the party is gearing up to fight him.

"It shows me some fear in the more radical side of the Republican Party," said Republican analyst Kirk Jowers of the Hinckley Institute of Politics. "They see some of their control slipping away. And so, instead of just engaging in a debate on the issues, they try to demonize or belittle people that way."

The video starts with a title that seems to present Huntsman in a positive light. It's labeled "A Common Sense Campaign For America." It uses selected soundbites of Huntsman speaking in news interviews and speeches, presenting his views on several hot-button issues. The selection of Huntsman quotes seems to be aimed at demonstrating his distance from the right-wing of the Republican Party.

In a section labeled, "On Climate Change," Huntsman is heard to say, "Until we put a value on carbon, we're never going to get serious about dealing with climate change long term." He goes on to suggest the possibility of a carbon tax.

In another segment on health care, Huntsman says, "I think health care is a right." The video's creators apparently thought that notion would be unpalatable to many conservatives.

The video also associates Huntsman with the failed 2008 campaign of John McCain and it features Huntsman speaking in an upbeat way about his own level of support from Democrats and independents.

The video gives away the conservative colors of its creators when it shows scenes of a rhinoceros, a visual symbol of an untrustworthy Republican. "RINO" is a derogatory term sometimes heard in political circles. It means "Republican In Name Only."

The video "does take some of (Huntsman's) words, probably some a little out of context and without a fuller discussion. ... But, clearly, the intent is to say he's not really a Republican," Jowers said.

"The good news for Huntsman is it shows that people are taking him very seriously. To run an ad like that, this early before he's declared, is kind of a shot across his bow that says, 'Look, there are some elements of the party that don't welcome you into the race.'"

In fact, the blogger who takes credit for creating the video said he does welcome Huntsman into the race. Writing on a website called VerumSerum.com, conservative Morgen Richmond said Huntsman will serve as a "proxy" candidate and the fight against him will be a useful "warm-up" for the general election campaign against President Obama.

"I strongly believe that traditional conservative ideals can and should prevail in 2012," Richmond wrote on the website.

Jowers said the video is an example of "a kind of purification process that the parties go through on the extreme ends. They try to make the tent smaller; that if you believe in X and Y, you don't belong even if you're 90 percent with us."

He said demonizing or belittling moderate Republicans will not help the party.

"It will be ultimately the Republican Party's detriment if they continue to want to shrink that tent," Jowers said.

E-mail: hollenhorst@desnews.com