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Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said he was encouraged after a series of recent meetings in California and Nevada with potential financial backers for his prospective presidential bid.

"[I have] a very good feeling. The race is wide open," he said in a brief interview Saturday. "A lot of the fundraisers who were committed before are wide open. They're looking for the message, they're looking for the approach. They're looking to have the point proved to them that a winnable candidate can emerge."

Huntsman met with potential supporters in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas last week. He said there was "a lot of interest" and now they want to see where the would-be candidate goes in the next few weeks.

The former governor is scheduled to discuss energy policy on Monday with oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens — whose "Pickens Plan" for expanding wind and natural gas energy Huntsman supports.

Huntsman will meet Tuesday with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has recently said that he would consider his own bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Huntsman said he would welcome Perry or former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin to the GOP field.

"The more the merrier," he said.

Huntsman is in Utah this week for his son's graduation and is spending time with family, discussing whether he will take the plunge and declare his candidacy for the White House.

He has said repeatedly that he expects to make a decision sometime in the coming weeks.

On Saturday, Huntsman was attending the unveiling of his new portrait during a private event at the Governor's Mansion. Huntsman joked that he didn't want a portrait — that's for someone who has died or done something great — and he said he has done neither.

The painting was done from a photograph taken before Huntsman left Utah to serve as U.S. ambassador to China in 2009.

Once the paint is dry — it takes oil paint several months to fully dry — the portrait will hang in the Hall of Governors in the Utah Capitol.

The former governor said he also hopes to attend motorcycle races at Miller Motorsports Park with his family.

He will be back in New Hampshire — which hosts a crucial early primary — over the next two weekends but will not participate in a June 13 candidate debate there.

"We didn't qualify until a day or two ago and then we were scheduled and things wouldn't work and we're not announced, and until we announce we're not going to do that," he said.

Fundraising could pose a major challenge for the former governor, who has never had to raise more than a few million dollars to run for statewide office and never has had to raise money under federal limits on campaign contributions.

He funded much of his first bid for president with a loan from Zions Bank that he repaid out of his own pocket before going to China.

The top tier of GOP candidates raised, on average, $76 million each. Mitt Romney, who raised more than $105 million, has already gotten off to a fast start as he runs again, raking in $10.5 million in one day in a major fundraiser.

"It's a daunting task and you need a full-time fundraising machine that believes in you, that has its own resources or access to its own resources, that can put together a very intense and deep network of support," said Kelly Patterson, director of the Center for the Studies of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.

"He's got to introduce himself to a lot of new people to make this happen, and they have to believe in him," Patterson said. "It takes time, which is why all along we've said that at some point you're in or you're out."