(Updated at 2:03 p.m.)
For the first time, President Obama's campaign responded to the entrance of a Republican candidate into the race with a short statement today following former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's campaign launch.
The response, a critique of Huntsman's economic policies, signals that the White House takes Huntsman's campaign seriously. A former Republican governor of Utah, Huntsman served as Obama's ambassador to China until his resignation two months ago.
"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," the Obama campaign statement said. "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."
Most of Huntsman's rivals for the presidential nomination maintained radio silence in the hours immediately following his announcement. In an interview on Fox News Channel's Happening Now, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty echoed Huntsman's courteous tone. He said Huntsman "will be a great new voice in the debate" and called both him and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another potential presidential candidate, "friends of mine."
One striking exception to the welcome wagon: former Sen. Rick Santorum. The Pennsylvania Republican marked Huntsman's entrance into the field with a parody of the Utahn's motocross videos.ram> ram> ram>