The former Utah Republican governor formally unveiled his presidential campaign at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, within sight of the Statue of Liberty.
He said the U.S. is less confident and less powerful than in the past and called that situation "totally unacceptable."
Huntsman is a fiscal conservative who has moderate views on some issues, including climate change.
He is also a former U.S. ambassador to China in the Obama administration.
Huntsman called for a return to civility in American politics.
He said he respects President Obama, but has a difference of opinion with the President over how to run the country.
Huntsman said the U.S. faces hard decisions on deficits and debt.
He called for broad and bold changes in tax laws and regulatory policies.
Huntsman warned about fiscal disaster without dramatic changes.
He said, quote, "If we don't, in less than a decade, every dollar of federal revenue will go to covering the costs of Medicare, Social Security and interest payments on our debt."