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Huntsman, a conservative who has taken moderate positions on environmental issues and came out in support of same-sex civil unions, is among several Republicans still weighing bids as the GOP field takes shape at a much slower pace than in past campaigns. Huntsman’s advisers say parts of his record could appeal to conservatives, moderates and independents alike.

More than a dozen people have expressed interest in running, though former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania are the only three serious contenders to have taken the first official steps by forming exploratory committees. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was preparing to join the contest in the coming days.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is likely to announce a decision about running over the next few weeks after months of being prodded to run by fiscal conservatives hungering for more options in the field. And there are a slew of others leaving the door open: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses that year; and reality TV star Donald Trump.

A Huntsman campaign began to take shape well before he left China.

Led by strategist John Weaver, a group of presidential veterans put together a political team so that Huntsman could be ready to run if he returned home and was receptive to a presidential bid. Pollster Whit Ayres is the latest to join the team and if Huntsman runs would help him shape ads and messages against opponents.

For now, Huntsman’s advisers are assembling in Washington, where Huntsman recently bought a $3 million mansion that housed contestants on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” No decision has been made on a location for a campaign headquarters.


Associated Press writer Jim Davenport contributed to this report.