Jon M. Huntsman Jr. began his presidential campaign in June by staking out a path as a “civil conservative,” a new type of Republican with an antiabortion and flat-tax record and who would steer clear of divisive rhetoric. His aim was to underscore his conservative credentials, playing down his recent post as President Obama’s envoy to China.
That seems to have changed.
In the past few days, Huntsman has not only broken the civility pledge by harshly criticizing his fellow Republicans, but he has highlighted his moderate views, saying in an interview that the nation, if not his party, is “center right.”
“Right now, this country is crying out for a sensible middle ground. This is a center-right country. I am a center-right candidate,” he said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” that aired over the weekend.“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.”
Huntsman also made news by saying on Twitter that “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
Aides disputed that the former Utah governor, whose early campaign literature and videos were filled with the word “conservative,” has shifted his approach, saying he is still the “conservative problem-solver” in the race.
“The solutions he has offered are in the conservative tradition, the Ryan plan, repealing ‘Obamacare.’ It’s less government and less taxation,” said Tim Miller, a Huntsman spokesman. “He is staking out a position where he is willing to tell hard truths and say things that need to be heard by the president and the extremes of both parties.”
Huntsman’s more vocal, aggressive approach has attracted some notice — aides said that he added 10,000 Twitter followers and had two of his biggest fundraising days over the weekend. But he is now in the unlikely position of being quoted by the Democratic National Committee.
Shortly after his interview aired, the DNC sent out a press release with the subject line “Don’t Take Our Word for It,” listing excerpts from Huntsman’s recent statements criticizing his GOP opponents.
Huntsman, who is in the middle of a media blitz and will appear on CNBC on Tuesday and “Meet the Press” on Sunday, responded to the DNC via Twitter :
“You missed 1. “Pres. Obama is too far left. His policies have failed.” Time to get economy back on track w/ new leadership.”