GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman defended his campaign’s seeming lack of traction with conservative voters Sunday morning while taking jabs at frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
The former Utah governor, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” from New Hampshire, highlighted his rise to third in the polls in the key state. He said that he is climbing slowly because he is, “not going to pander.”
Huntsman has been criticized for his role as ambassador to China under President Obama and for his positions on range of issues, from the wars in the Middle East to climate change to same-sex civil unions. He hasn’t seen the sort of dramatic spike in voter support his opponents have, he said, because people won’t be seeing his, “hair on fire.”
“Everybody gets their Warholian 15 minutes of fame…I’m getting whiplash watching all of my friends go up and down,” Huntsman said, noting that he’d much prefer his own “steady, consistent rise” as voters look beyond his involvement with the Obama administration to his record as governor.
Indeed, conservative columnist George Will and MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough earlier this week said Huntsman may be the truest conservative in the race. But his inability to connect with the GOP base and tea party supporters on a personal level has kept him perennially low in the polls.
Huntsman also used the appearance to take a few personal digs. In a veiled swipe at Gingrich, Huntsman noted that “everybody knows we need terms limits, everybody knows we need to shut the revolving door that allows [Congressmen] to go into lobbying.”
And he said that Romney’s position on China – Romney has said he would take a no-nonsense position by immediately designating China a currency manipulator – is evidence of, “somebody who clearly hasn’t had any experience dealing with the Chinese.”