Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman Jr. questioned the electability of the two front-runners for his party’s nomination, saying some of Rick Perry’s views are out of the mainstream and Mitt Romney lacks foreign policy experience.
Huntsman predicted he could win in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a primary election, even as the latest polling shows minimal support for him among Republicans.
“Some people have been at zero today and they’ve gone on to win the New Hampshire primary,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing this weekend.
Romney doesn’t have the “hands-on foreign policy experience,” that’s essential to being president, said Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China for President Barack Obama until resigning earlier this year to seek the Republican nomination.
Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, also criticized Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, for raising taxes. “I prefer having a governor who is Number One in job creation as opposed to Number 47, someone who didn’t raise taxes to the tune of $750 million a year,” he said, in a comparison of his record as governor with Romney’s.
Perry, the Texas governor who leads in primary polling, has taken positions on climate science and evolution that will be rejected by independent and moderate voters, Huntsman said. “On science, he’s out of the mainstream,” he said.
Perry was the top choice of 26 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 9-12, followed by Romney at 22 percent. Huntsman trailed the entire Republican field, which includes Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas, at 1 percent.
If elected president, Huntsman said his first action would be to present a “growth package” to Congress. His bill would include proposals to change the tax code, cut regulations and increase the country’s energy independence.
Changes in those areas would give an instant boost to the stock market, he said. “I believe those three areas are the most powerful engines of growth that we can consider as a country,” he said.
On deficit reduction, Huntsman said he supported the findings of a 2010 fiscal commission led by former Senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, and former Clinton Administration White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Their panel, created by Obama, recommended raising government revenue by eliminating or restricting deductions and credits written into the tax code for such items as mortgage interest and investments in renewable energy.
“I would have voted for it,” he said. “The president made a huge mistake by not embracing this.”
American solar power technology “isn’t ready for primetime in the marketplace,” Huntsman said, when asked about a dispute involving the bankruptcy of a Fremont, California-based solar-panel maker, Solyndra LLC, after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee. He was asked if the assistance was a mistake.
“You know, everybody can be a Monday morning quarterback, and I don’t wish to be,” he said. “But I think the reality that we’re all coming to grips with is that, in the renewable energy area, you’ve got to have technologies that are deployable into the marketplace that meet certain economic criteria, in terms of cost conversion. We’re not there yet.”
Tax Increase Opposition
Huntsman, along with the rest of the Republican presidential field, said in an Aug. 11 debate that he wouldn’t support a debt-reduction plan that includes spending cuts and tax increases, even at a 10 to one ratio.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has ruled out using tax increases to trim the deficit.
Huntsman said his economic plan, released on Aug. 31 in New Hampshire, borrowed on the findings of the Simpson-Bowles commission. His proposal cuts tax rates and eliminates all deductions, including those for home mortgages and charitable contributions.
“We have a dilapidated, anachronistic, ‘50s tax code,” he said. “If we’re going to compete in the 21st Century, let’s get smart, let’s clean out the cobwebs on both the individual side and on the corporate side.”
Huntsman was asked a question raised in a Sept. 13 Republican candidates’ debate: Who should bear the costs of a young person lacking health insurance involved in a terrible accident?
“Those costs are passed on to all of us now because there are certain commitments” in emergency rooms, he said. “But you know, you’ve got a lot of humanitarian organizations” that can take care of some people.
“There will be a segment of the population who, for whatever reason, have fallen through the cracks and can’t help themselves,” Huntsman said. “We’ve got to have the capacity and the wherewithal to help them as well.”