Usually mild-mannered Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman took an uncharacteristically aggressive tone at the National Press Club on Thursday, railing against Washington’s lobbyists and taking pointed shots at two of his leading rivals.
“We have a choice in this race—we have a choice between a panderer-in-chief, a lobbyist-in-chief or a commander-in-chief,” Huntsman said, in a not-so-subtle dig at his fellow GOP White House contenders Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Huntsman joined the fray shortly after Romney and Gingrich ignited their own shooting war: During the past 48 hours, the two have begun to launch attacks on each other’s records and personal values.
From his position well at the back of the pack, Huntsman lobbed critiques of both rivals.
“Governor Romney will say anything to earn the voter’s trust,” he said of the former Massachusetts governor, a distant relative. “We are in this mess because there are already enough people in Washington who make a career out of telling people what they want to hear.”
Gingrich “is a product of that same Washington,” Huntsman said, “who participated in the excesses of our broken and polarized political system.”
The former Utah governor also offered a slate of proposals to cure “the deficit of trust” that he said pervades institutions of power, from Washington to Wall Street. Among his plans are to institute term limits in Congress—six terms for House members and two terms for senators—breaking up big banks and placing stricter guidelines on former public officials who seek to profit on K Street.
“People have lost trust their elected leaders in this city are working for them, rather than a limited, efficient government that serves the public’s interest,” Huntsman said. “Washington has grown bloated and bureaucratic, captured and corrupted by swarms of lobbyists, influence-peddlers and crony capitalists.”
With a month to go until the New Hampshire primary—where he has staked his campaign—Huntsman is running out of time to make his case. He’s only recently broken into the double digits in the Granite State, according to recent polling, and lags further behind nationally.
Still, Huntsman said he’s not worried. When asked at what point he would consider making a run as an independent, he answered: “Why would I need to consider that when I’m going to win as a Republican?”