130930-WITW-huntsman-tease
Peter Kramer/NBC

Political Kids

Abby Huntsman: My Dad Should Be Governator

The daughter of presidential candidate Jon Huntsman talks to Sandra McElwaine about her new MSNBC show and father's political future.

Ask Abby Hunstman about her father, and she'll tell you that he would make a great Governor of California one day. “That’s where he was born he loves it and he would be a great Governor," she says. "He was amazing in Utah, so I’m trying to push that one.”

But is the 52-year-old former Governor of Utah, former ambassador to China and 2012 presidential candidate even interested in the position?

“I don’t know. I would have to keep pushing. I think that’s my job.”

The second of Jon Huntsman’s seven children, Abby served as her father's consigliere during the 2012 campaign. With her two sisters, Libby and Mary, she also became a semi-celebrity on You Tube and Twitter under the handle @Jon2012 Girls.

The trio was far from politically correct. They rocked the Internet with their quirky tweets, oddball pranks, spoofs and snarky asides. Many insiders considered them a flashy, wild bunch out to promote themselves and to grab their proverbial 15 minutes of fame.

Abby’s star has eclipsed that particular time frame.

In July, the stylish, outspoken 27 year old joined MSNBC’s afternoon gabfest “The Cycle,” as the so called conservative co-host of the young, telegenic group of four. The program is a mishmash of current events, politics and the latest talking points, laced with heated conversation and minus any bellowing or name-calling. It seems to be a collegial group.”The chemistry is there.” Abby says.

Her tweets are more circumspect now. “I’m a lot more careful,” she says,” because I represent not just myself but this show and the company and that’s really important to me.”

Television has been part of her DNA since she was 16 and interned at the CBS bureau in Washington DC. She followed that with stints at ABC, CNN and Huff Post Live. Her new show makes her one of a gaggle of political daughters—Chelsea Clinton, Jenna Bush Hager, Meghan McCain—who have landed high profile-gigs on television.

She resents being lumped together with other political off spring who have little TV experience and eschews the title “daughter of.”

“You get ‘Oh, you’re there because you’re daddy helped you get there,’” she says."I'm here because I worked the news desk like so many others did but you're always thrown into a different category because of your name and because of what your dad did.”

An equal challenge is pitching conservative views on the show. She considers herself a moderate Republican and feels isolated by harsh Tea Party rhetoric and the increasing influence of the far right. “There are things they push me for and that’s not where I stand,” she says. “My biggest challenge is finding my niche and not being afraid to afraid to stand up for what I believe. You get hit by Republicans when you go against what they are saying and by Democrats too when you are right down the middle.”

Abby displayed her independent streak when she became the first member of the prominent and wealthy clan to marry outside the Mormon Church. A descendant of Davud B. Haight, a member of the Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, she rebelled against church gospel and married her college sweetheart, Jeff Livingston, in an Episcopal ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington DC in 2010.

“It’s never easy being the first one but it’s all worth it in the end if you do what is right for you.” Her family were supportive, especially her father whom she calls her “best friend.” They are in constant contact and talk or text every day. “He‘s the first person I go to when I have a question or something.”

Their bonding heightened during the campaign when Abby filled the role of gatekeeper, confidant and advisor.

”Most people don’t imagine ever working with a parent, right? But it was really special to have him come to me with, ‘should I do this or not. What do you think me message should be?’ I grew so much through that experience.” Criss-crossing the country on the rubber chicken circuit gave her added insight into the media and helped to prepare for her present slot.

Abby predicts that her father is not gone from the national stage, and assumes he'll make another presidential run. “I think he’s got it in him,” she says. “It’s a matter of timing. He’s realistic and rationale and he’s not going to throw himself out there to lose a second time.”

Comments