Huntsman meets with Haley

Jon Huntsman

COLUMBIA -- Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China, met with Gov. Nikki Haley Friday as he tests the waters in South Carolina for a possible 2012 presidential run.

Huntsman is in the capital to give a commencement speech today at the University of South Carolina. When he met with the state's Republican governor he said the two talked about the economy.

"We talked about the view from Beijing, which really causes one to reflect on 21st-century competitiveness," Huntsman said. "The view from 10,000 miles away would suggest that unless your economic house is in order, you're largely going to be irrelevant."

Huntsman was being escorted by South Carolina GOP kingpin and former Attorney General Henry McMaster. Huntsman will be in Charleston tonight to meet potential supporters. He said little else about his plans while in South Carolina, except that he was looking forward to more mustard-based barbecue.

Huntsman said he did not have a timeline for making a decision on whether to jump into the 2012 GOP field, but he added that the situation is unfolding quickly.

To some, a Republican contender who can unseat Democratic President Obama has not yet come forward.

"There is always room for a new voice," Huntsman said. "America is about remaking ourself. It's about innovation. It's about new ideas. It's never about yesterday. It's always about tomorrow. To the extend that people are concerned about where we are in terms of the economy and our relative position abroad, absolutely people are looking for a new set of eyeballs."

The 2012 presidential cycle was in full swing this week when Republican hopefuls met on stage in Greenville for the first primary season debate. Donald Trump, another potential candidate, will speak May 19 to the Columbia TEA Party at the Statehouse.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855, follow her at @yvonnewenger and read her Political Briefings blog.