One's a handsome 50-something former governor with a large, attractive Mormon family, moderate conservative views, and a pesky connection to the Obama administration to combat.
The other's a handsome 60-something former governor with a large, attractive Mormon family, moderate conservative views, and a pesky connection to the Obama administration to combat.
And both are running for president.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman are candidates in a growing field of contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination, but they may have more of a challenge convincing voters they aren't political twins separated at birth than edging out other hopefuls with their campaign platforms and promises.
Huntsman's profile reads like that of the quintessential American politician. Born in 1960, Huntsman was a boy scout who grew up to serve as an Asian affairs emissary for the Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations. He became the governor of Utah in 2005, an office to which he was reelected in a landslide before resigning in August, 2009 to accept an appointment as Ambassador to China for President Obama.
It's that last title that may be a sticking point for Huntsman to overcome in the minds of Republican voters. Huntsman said in his candidacy announcement Tuesday morning that he respects Obama and hopes to lead a civil opposing campaign.
"[Obama] and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love, but the question each of us wants voters to answer is who will be the better president, not who's the better American," he said.
This in a race in which candidates are already positioning themselves as direct contenders against the president, rather than against one another for their party's nomination.
Romney, the current GOP frontrunner, has been alternately embracing and dodging his connection to one of the most despised policies among Republicans the Obama administration has enacted: Health care reform.
In 2006, then-Governor Romney signed a universal health care bill into law, which has come to be known colloquially as "Romneycare." President Obama has said publicly that the Massachusetts plan served as a model for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act he signed in 2010, though Romney, while defending his reforms, has repeatedly called for the repeal of the federal law.
The relationship between the two laws has become so problematic for Romney that rival candidate Tim Pawlenty referred to them collectively as "Obamneycare" in a June 12 appearance on "Fox News Sunday"-though the former governor of Minnesota later failed to hammer the point home when invited to do so in a nationally televised debate .
Huntsman and Romney will also face questions and doubts about their religion. Both are prominent members of the Latter-day Saints church, which many Americans view as outside the norm of Christian faith. Romney infamously delivered the "Mormon speech" in 2007, tackling skepticism about his religion head-on like Kennedy did with his Catholicism decades earlier.
But many Americans are still wary of Mormons in high political office. According to a Gallup poll released Monday, 22 percent of Americans would not vote for a Mormon to be president. That figure has remained fairly constant for more than 50 years, despite dramatic decreases in voter opposition to candidates who happen to be black, female, Catholic or Jewish during that time.
Perhaps working in Romney's and Huntsman's favor is each man's wealth. Both have amassed significant personal riches as businessmen, Huntsman serving as an executive in his father's multibillion-dollar chemical company and Romney as CEO of investment group Bain Capital.
But though Romney has reached deep into his personal coffer for past political campaigns, Huntsman reportedly plans to rely almost exclusively on Political Action Committee funds instead of his own bank account.
With all the apparent similarities, Romney and Huntsman will likely have to rely on the issues to set themselves apart. But that seems to be the way Huntsman wants it.
"We will conduct this campaign on the high road," he said at Tuesday's announcement. "I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the office of president. Of course we'll have our disagreements; that's what campaigns are all about.
"But I want you to know that I respect my fellow Republican candidates."