Huntsman was unavailable for an interview Wednesday, but spokesman Mike Mower said that the governor and McCain "share common viewpoints on many important issues, such as those impacting the western states and have similar viewpoints on international issues." Mower said the decision to back McCain is not a slight to Romney and the governor "thinks he's doing a great job," but Huntsman and McCain share more common viewpoints.
"We're honored to have his support," McCain's PAC executive director, Craig Goldman, said Wednesday.
Huntsman and McCain have "developed a friendship in a short amount of time," Goldman added, one that was heightened when both took a trip to Iraq recently to visit the troops. Huntsman's will advise the McCain campaign and help identify candidates in the West that McCain should back.
McCain, a political maverick that many pundits have ranked as having the best shot at the White House following President Bush's second term, says he will decide after November's mid-term elections whether he will vie for the GOP nomination.
Huntsman's decision may come as a shock to conventional wisdom that would point to a Mormon governor automatically backing another Mormon governor who wants to run for president. Huntsman had acknowledged previously he was advising Romney on foreign policy issues.
The governor's choice to back McCain also shows a potential divide in his family. Huntsman's brothers and his father, Jon Huntsman St., have given thousands of dollars to Romney's political action committees. Huntsman Sr., who built a business empire with petrochemicals, gave Romney's Iowa PAC $50,000 in March along with a $5,000 donation to Romney's Michigan PAC.
The governor's mother, Karen Huntsman, gave $1,000 to McCain's PAC in October 2005.
Mower said there has been divergent support in the past in the Huntsman family, pointing to the early 2000 presidential race when the Huntsman Jr. backed then-Gov. George W. Bush and Huntsman Sr.
supported Liddy Dole.
"They've backed different candidates in the past and they're doing so in this instance, but there's still mutual respect for the viewpoints of all family members," Mower said.
The elder Huntsman was unavailable for comment early Wednesday afternoon.