Huntsman says GOP primary hopefuls too focused on 'fringe issues'
November 30th, 2012
09:57 AM ET
8 years ago

Huntsman says GOP primary hopefuls too focused on 'fringe issues'

(CNN) – One of the more moderate 2012 Republican primary contenders said Friday his party's presidential hopefuls should focus less on so-called "fringe issues" if they hope to garner support from a wide swath of Americans in general elections.

Jon Huntsman, speaking on CNN's "Starting Point," said too many of this cycle's GOP candidates were running for all the wrong reasons – meaning serious issues gave way to attention-grabbing position statements.

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"No one anymore is willing to step into the arena," Huntsman said. "It's left to those who kind of do it in part because that's a way to make money perhaps. You know, little bit of entertainment value. There may not be anything else to do."

Those statements reflect sentiments Huntsman made in a Huffington Post article earlier this week, when he said of the GOP primary process "the barriers of entry to this game are pretty damn low."

The result of sub-par candidates is a lopsided focus on issues that don't reflect the core ideological thrust of the GOP.

"We kind of drift in areas where we take on fringe issues, and it gets us stuck in the alleyways of life that take our focus away from what is really important for the American people, and that is individual freedom and that is getting the budgets balanced so people can get on with their lives," Huntsman said.

The former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China dropped his presidential effort after coming in third in New Hampshire's primary. He had campaign heavily in the state, staking his entire bid on winning the first-in-the-nation primary.

After exiting the presidential field, Huntsman put some distance between himself and the Republican Party, including his decision not to attend the convention in Tampa because Republicans were not focused on a "bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States – a future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as our fiscal and economic deficits."

On Friday, Huntsman said those problems were still present, along with "structural issues" within the party that led to Mitt Romney's loss on November 6. The GOP assessment of the loss – termed an "autopsy" by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus – is healthy, Huntsman said, adding he thought the conclusion should be reduced to a single sentence.

"That one statement ought to be: balance the budgets and get out of people's lives. And you ought to build the party around that because we have strong libertarian roots that go way back to the early days of the Republican Party."

CNN's Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Jon Huntsman
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. California Gary

    The fact that Huntsman was the only serious candidate on the stage in the GOP primary debates and his own party ran him out of the contest in favor of the clown show that remained, tells you all you need to know about the state of the GOP today. A phrase from my service days is the best description of today's's a two word phrase that begins with "cluster" and ends with an unprintable get the idea.

    November 30, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  2. Woman In California

    Memo to Jon Huntsman:
    I'm not impressed with you at all, even though you are somewhat more open minded. I find you to be a hypocrite and backstabber who endorsed Willard and sanctioned Ryan's plan, and even IF everyone on these Boards votes for you in 2016, I still would NOT. You also read from the SAME bible as your brother Willard, one which disrespects and scorns my family and I, but go ahead and run and I'll continue running away from you and educating as many people as possible on your beliefs.

    November 30, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  3. judy

    boy is he right on. Especially the barriers for running are so low. Right now any wacko can run. Amazing they don't have to have any intellect at all. so people who think the earth is 6 thousand years old or women can keep from getting pregnant during a rape are allowed to run. We need some kind of a test to make sure these clowns have an IQ higher then 2 or we will continue to get the Bachmans and Palins of the world campaigning and spewing nonsense and hate.

    November 30, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  4. Thomas

    Jon Huntsman speaks truth , the GOP can't handle the truth.
    Boehner needs to go !

    November 30, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Huntsman was sorely missed by me on the campaign trail. Once he and Portman left, we were stuck with a group of C and D list candidates, and Willard. Did Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson really think they were legitimate candidates? Then you had the two has-beens – Newt and Rick Santorum. It almost looked like the Republicans went out of their way to find candidates who made Willard look good to ensure his nomination. Too bad he kept opening his mouth and ruining the image of an intelligent individual.

    November 30, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    They are focused on fringe issues, but take a step back a look at the common motive. These right wing extremists, and most conservatives, seek to RULE, not govern. Liberals recongize that the role of government officials is fundamentally custodial in nature. The preamble to the Constitution directs that welfare of the country is to be protected, not ruled by an oligarchy or a monarchy.

    November 30, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. Jim Hahn

    Jon, you are the only Republican I could ever hope to vote for. Unfortunately, the fringe (or base) of the Republican party doesn't accept level headed thinking with a focus on the future instead of the past. Republicans are reducing themselves to a minority party and should not expect to ascend to the White House for several decades.

    November 30, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. GOP = Greed Over People

    Huntsman needs to come to the Dem side in case Hillary does not run in 2016.

    Give him 4 years to make a name for himself and shake off the stench for having been a brief passenger in the GOP clown car.

    November 30, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  9. GonzoinHouston

    It made no difference at the time, but I voted for Huntsman in the primary anyway. Wow, crazy idea: Huntsman was ambassador to China for Obama. Huntsman for Secretary of State?

    November 30, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  10. just sayin

    wake up huntsman. the lsm was focused on this bs because that was helpful to obama. they control the narrative of the election. if they focused on the real issues and obamas failure to solve the real problems of the country, obama would have lost.

    November 30, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. rs

    It's pretty simple- we need to declare the GOP a disease and fight it accordingly.

    November 30, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. The REAL Truth...

    Its a shame that Huntsman is too moderate for today's Republican party. It's also a shame that the GOP hasn't lived up to it's "smaller/less govt, less taxes" mantra in a long time. Every Republican administration back to Reagan has added Federal employees (increased size of govt) and increased taxes (in some for or other) with the exception of Bush 43. Even Bush 41 realized that one has to increase taxes to offset spending – even when cutting.
    The current craze of "cost cutting" has caused a doubling of worker productivity where we all do what used to be 3 peoples jobs. Corporate America is sitting on more CASH/profit than they even have in HISTORY and yet the pubes still harp on about cutting taxes for the job creators. Focusing on the *fringe* element has to be the most understated comment of this entire election.

    November 30, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. Honestly?

    The thought of 2016 gives me nightmares. After everything the GOP pulled this time around, I shudder to think of their game plan going forward. It's all too obvious already that they haven't learned a damn thing.

    As far as John Huntsman goes, I keep in mind that I thought Mitt Romney would have been better than John McCain. That will keep me from getting ahead of myself in 2016.

    November 30, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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