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Jon Huntsman Jr., a 1987 College graduate, formally announced his presidential campaign at liberty state Park in Jersey City, N.J. on June 21. Huntsman, a Republican, served as ambassador to China under the Obama administration.

Credit: Alexandra Fleischman , , ,

Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman’s recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, as well as a new presidential campaign video released last week, indicate that the candidate is making more public appearances in a new campaign strategy for the 2012 election.

For some, these appearances have brought to light that, while the 1987 College graduate and his family have connections to both Penn and the University of Utah, he may be downplaying his degree from Penn.

Huntsman enrolled at the University of Utah and eventually transferred to Penn, where he received his bachelor’s degree. At the University of Utah, buildings named after his father, Jon Huntsman, Sr., include the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Jon M. Huntsman Center, an athletic facility. The Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University is also named after him.

At Penn, both the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business and Huntsman Hall are named after the candidate’s father.

On Huntsman’s campaign website and most literature about him, his degree from Penn is acknowledged, but in debates and on the campaign trail, many say he places more emphasis on his connection to the University of Utah.

Annenberg Professor Alvin Felzenberg commented that there has been a trend in presidential campaigns to try to be as relatable as possible to their voting constituents.

“We’ve had presidents who came from privileged backgrounds, but they wanted to come off as Gomer Pyle,” Felzenberg said, referring to a character in a 1960s television show who is seen to represent a mainstream American citizen.

“I think Huntsman is proud of his Penn roots … but if you see the Bushes playing [Ivy League educations] down and Kerry playing it down, you are going to try to do this too. To some extent, Huntsman and Romney are responding to the atmosphere.”

Others may disagree. College and Wharton senior Charles Gray, president of College Republicans and a columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said “[Huntsman’s] Penn degree is something that is important to his family — his daughters went here and were very active in College Republicans.”

Gray added that Huntsman’s campaign “has been very close to the University. As far as I have seen, he has definitely continued to think about Penn. When he had his announcement at the Statue of Liberty, his campaign contacted us and told us about the announcement. They chartered a bus from Philadelphia,” he added.

In addition, College Republicans has been in touch with the campaign about a possible Huntsman campaign event in Philadelphia or at Penn.

College junior Josh Oppenheimer believes Huntsman will emphasize his connection to Penn later in the campaign.

“I don’t see it as a stigma against Penn, but why bring it up now when it won’t really help him? That’s not saying that it won’t come in handy in the future,” he said.

This is not the first time presidential candidates have come from Ivy League backgrounds. Both 2004 Presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry attended Yale University. In addition, 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, who graduated from Harvard University, tried to indicate that undergraduate transcripts are an indicator for a successful presidency.

It remains to be seen whether the same sort of emphasis will present itself in the upcoming election.

This article was updated from its original version to reflect that the the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business is at Utah State University, not at the University of Utah.

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