Washington (CNN) - Jon Huntsman gave a frank appraisal of his fellow Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann Thursday, saying the Minnesota congresswoman was qualified to be president, but only by the narrowest of definitions.
"I think she meets the constitutional requirements, of course," Huntsman said when asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if Bachmann was qualified to be president.
When pushed to say whether her experience would make her a fit commander in chief, Huntsman demurred.
"I would never go beyond what the Constitution requires. Leave that up to the people to decide. They always typically make the best choices," Huntsman said.
Huntsman said that recent comments from Bachmann about the safety of the human papillomavirus vaccine had confused voters. In interviews, Bachmann has repeated a story about a woman who claimed her daughter was rendered mentally disabled after receiving the injection.
"If you're going to say something, check your sources, get your information right," Huntsman said Thursday. "If you're going to run for president of the United States, people are pretty much going to want to rely on your facts. They are going to rely on what you're presenting. You darn well better make sure it's consistent with reality."
Huntsman said that he opposed a mandate requiring all girls to receive the vaccine.
"Mandates do not have a role predominantly in these kinds of issues, whether it's health care reform or whether it's what we are discussing here," Huntsman said. "American people are very skeptical of mandates in society. They want freedom. They want the freedom to choose these things."
Huntsman praised Texas Gov. Rick Perry for admitting he had made a mistake in enacting that legislation in Texas that required girls to receive the HPV vaccine.
"I think Rick came out courageously and said he erred and took back that earlier decision he made," Huntsman said.
When asked about his consistently low polling numbers, Huntsman said he was confident that voters in New Hampshire and elsewhere would soon begin to gravitate to his campaign.
"I believe we will resonate with all voters, many independent, a whole lot Republican, some the old Reagan Democrats," Huntsman said. "We are beginning the process of introducing ourselves to the American people."
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