Huntsman's future may hinge on his past
June 21st, 2011
03:08 PM ET
7 years ago

Huntsman's future may hinge on his past

New York (CNN) - Jon Huntsman was out to show off his conservative side. Stepping into the 2012 race surrounded by his family, Huntsman announced his presidential campaign in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, the same spot where Republican icon Ronald Reagan launched his successful 1980 general election run for the White House.

Normally soft-spoken, the former Utah governor issued a stark warning about the future. "We are about to pass down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got. This is totally unacceptable and totally un-American," Huntsman said.

The past could be just as problematic for Huntsman. It's no secret some conservatives are troubled by his time as Ambassador to China under President Obama. What's less well-known are the moderate positions Huntsman took as governor in a series of media roundtable interviews for the public TV station in Salt Lake City.

Back in September 2007, Huntsman told reporters he supported a health care reform plan that included an individual mandate that required his state's residents to obtain medical insurance.

"I'm comfortable with a requirement," Huntsman said on the program. "You can call it what you want. But at some point we are going to have to get serious with how we deal with this issue," he added.

The individual mandate was a key component in President Obama's health care law and in a similar plan adopted in Massachusetts by one of Huntsman's rivals, Mitt Romney.

Huntsman pointed out to CNN he eventually signed on to a program that did not include a mandate. "Look at what we passed. It was based on free market principles," Huntsman said.

Also on the local PBS program, then-governor Huntsman indicated his support for the stimulus program. "Should we turn down this money? The answer is no," Huntsman said.

He also signaled his belief that human activity contributes to climate change, a position that irritates many conservatives.

"Climate change is something that is real and one that we must take into account as we develop and implement policies going forward, particularly in the energy sector," Huntsman said on the PBS program in August 2008.

In his campaign kick-off speech, Huntsman pointed to his record of cutting taxes in Utah. His campaign boasts Huntsman left office with some of the highest approval ratings in the U.S. for a sitting governor.

His roll-out Tuesday had a few minor glitches. Huntsman's campaign inadvertently handed out press passes that included a misprint. The candidate's name was spelled, "John" not "Jon." A video campaign biography on his new web site suggests a man riding a motorcycle is Huntsman when it is, in fact, not the candidate. For the record, Huntsman is a motorcycle enthusiast.

In the end, Huntsman's campaign will likely hinge on whether some of his past centrist views, some of which are shared by the President, will be acceptable to tea party conservatives.

Huntsman vows to defend his record with a more civil tone than what voters have witnessed in recent years. The question before voters, Huntsman insists, "is who will be the better President; not who's the better American."

Filed under: 2012 • Jon Huntsman
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. GonzoinHouston

    Huntsman is the closest thing to a challenge for Obama in the GOP field. I would love to see a Huntsman/Obama debate. Can you imagine two seriously intelligent people rationally debating the issues of the day? Hmm, me neither.

    And a note to those who dismiss him with "the evangelicals will never vote for a Mormon", they may not vote for him in the primary, but they'll vote for him in the general election. The Christian conservatives are conservative first and Christian second. Never forget how they backed Reagan over Carter, and which of them was the more Christian?

    June 21, 2011 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  2. Carol

    Would it be "unamerican" to refuse a court order to withhold payments for child support ? Because that is what his company did... to us here in Colorado. Let's see: supporting deadbeats? not families?
    I won't vote for him.

    June 21, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Amb. Huntsman needs to stop ducking and dodging his opponents. Remember, this is the guy who is using the Guiliani 2008 playbook to run his campaign. Skip this state, that debate, and focus on here or there. If you wish to represent all of the people then you need to go out and meet all of the people. I wonder who else doesn't make his list. Huntsman is approaching this as if he is lobbying for himself to be CEO of something. Gather a majority of support among board members (states) and you win. Right? Nahp, I don't think it works that way, Ambassador.

    June 21, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Jake

    the America he describes is NOT the America President Clinton handed off to George W. Bush. or the America that President Obama has been tirelessly trying to restore. And for a GOP candidate to utter the blaming words of a "less compassionate" America!? are you kidding!? as the GOP stomps all over immigration, gay rights, women's rights, union's rights, and he's talking "less compassionate" while he silently points a finger at the Obama White House!?!? get a grip! the GOP will not regain control anytime in the near future!

    June 21, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. New SunriseComing

    It's totally because of totally unAmerican Obama the traitor.

    June 21, 2011 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. bb

    And it might just hinge on his endorsement of the Paul Ryan plan. Or the fact that he doesn't have any support from his own party. Or the fact that he has no support outside of his party – what independent does not see him pushing far right agenda? Or the fact that Romney will cut him off at the knees if Bachmann doesn't get to him first?

    June 21, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Matthew

    It is 235 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed & thier are 0 members of this cult at the highest level with dark skin. WOW!

    June 21, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Whoosh

    I like Jon but I am afraid he will get GOTP'ed before he get the nomination...then he will have nothing LEFT.

    June 21, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Huntsman seems to be a decent enough guy.

    Still not gonna vote for him, though......

    June 21, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Huntsman is soft. "Let's run a civil campaign." That jab from Santorum totally missed and Huntsman's whining about it. It was bad form for Santorum to attack on the day of his announcement, which made it even worse for Santorum because he missed.

    June 21, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    And the rollout for the GOBPbaggers Great White Dope continues as CNN shills for yet another Greedy Old Pig in hopes their will be a real election race to cover next year. The facts, however, show that Huntsman is just another teatard cultist. As soon as he sounds the least bit moderate, a look behind the mask shows he's nothing but. He (and his enablers in the so-called "liberal media" like CNN will try to paint a moderate picture, yet deep down average Americas will see he is just another spoiled trust fund kid from a cult capitalist chemical family that cares nothing about the poor, the middle class, workers and the environment. Just watch out you don't get conned by his phony "moderation." This guy endorsed the Ryan plan, which is all you need to know about the low regard in which he views 90% of America.

    June 21, 2011 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  12. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    "We are about to pass down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got. This is totally unacceptable and totally un-American," Huntsman said.
    What do you expect after decades of living beyond our means, stealing from the Social Security Trust Fund, borrowing and saddling our kids/grandkids/greatgrandkids with astronomical debt, creating huge government entitlement programs one after another... all while giving more and more Americans a free ride on their taxes while forcing the tax burden on fewer and fewer people.

    June 21, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  13. Overheard in Huntsman's interview

    Now that I'm running for President... I didn't mean anything I said in the past that goes against the position you hold as GOP primary voters.

    I was misquoted when I said a health care mandate was something I'm comfortable with, even though I said "I'm comfortable with this requirement."

    and.... I was almost misquoted when I said the state shouldn't turn down stimulus money, even though I said we shouldn't and then took it as well.

    and...I don't believe that climate change is caused by humans.. even though I said I did a few years ago..

    All of those things I don't believe in now and I was misquoted on earlier are un-American, and I would never own up to saying any of those things now, that I'm running for president and need your votes.

    June 21, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  14. HtownCowboy

    Did he say that the company his family founded has or perhaps still is selling chemicals to Iran that the country can use to make bombs?

    June 21, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. John

    Ahhh.... another additon to the GOP Clown Car.

    June 21, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. w l jonesj

    A person speaking mandiren want put our national debt in the Li min we have to balance spending and raise taxes. Bless

    June 21, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on America!

    Huntsman's own party, the Greedy Old Pigs, is by far the most responsible for passing "down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got. This is totally unacceptable and totally un-American," Lets see if he has the cojones to admit what is obvious to the rest of America: The Greedy Old Pigs are an insane cult that worships failed ideas, like deregulation and tax cuts for the filthy rich, and uses fear, lies, ignorance and hate to further those sleazy goals.

    June 21, 2011 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |