White House hopeful Jon Huntsman took a combative approach to his first Sunday show interview as a GOP presidential candidate. The former Utah governor, who served as U.S. ambassador to China until April, knocked his opponents while positioning himself as the moderate Republican candidate in his prerecorded appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
“This is a center-right country. I am a center-right candidate,” Huntsman told anchorman Jake Tapper. “Right now, we’ve got people on the fringes. President Obama is too far to the left. We’ve got people on the Republican side who are too far to the right, and we have zero substance.”
He slammed Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow GOP contender, for saying last week on the campaign trail that if Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke prints more money, it would be an “almost treasonous” act. “I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” Perry said.
“I don’t know if that’s pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas,” Huntsman quipped, referring to Perry’s suggestion in 2009 that Texas could be driven to leave the United States. “But in any event, I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that ‘treasonous’ remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues.”
Huntsman also criticized former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, an early frontrunner in the GOP primary, for flip-flopping on a flat tax. “If we were to talk about his inconsistencies and his changes on various issues, we’d be here all afternoon,” Huntsman said.
He also attempted to stake out ground as the pragmatic moderate on evolution and global warming. He posted on Twitter last week that he believed in evolution and trusted scientists on global warming.
When asked about his tweet on ABC, Huntsman said it would be detrimental to Republicans if they became “the anti-science party.”
So detrimental, in fact, the election could hinge on the issue, he contended. “We [would] lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012,” he said.
Huntsman also explained his strategy for winning the GOP nomination, saying that the trajectory was “pretty clear.”
“We’re going to do well in New Hampshire, and we’re going to do well in South Carolina. And then we’re going to bring it home in Florida,” he said. Huntsman’s campaign is headquartered in the Sunshine State.
ABC released excerpts from portions of the interview that did not air. According to those excerpts, Huntsman praised Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) handling of the debt ceiling negotiations that resulted in the Budget Control Act.
“I stood alone in terms of supporting the Boehner plan. Why? Because I don’t think you can just allow the greatest nation that ever was, 25 percent of the world’s [gross domestic product], to default,” Huntsman said, according to an ABC news release. “Instead, we had Speaker Boehner, I think a pretty courageous guy, step up and say we can cut deeper than we have to take it up in order to meet our obligations. ... I give the Speaker high marks for his leadership.”