Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman did not hesitate on Sunday to differentiate himself from the Republican field, criticizing all of his opponents on their views of the economy.
“I wouldn't necessarily trust any of my opponents right now, who were on a recent debate stage with me, when every single one of them would have allowed this country to default,” Huntsman told Jake Tapper on ABC News's This Week. “You can imagine, even given the uncertainty of the marketplace the last several days and the last couple of weeks, if we had defaulted for the first time in the history of the greatest country that ever was -- being 25 percent of the world's GDP and having the largest financial services sector in this world by a long shot -- if we had defaulted, Jake, this marketplace would be in absolute turmoil.”
Huntsman said that his opponents -- both President Obama on the left and his party on the right -- represent what is wrong with the current political landscape, adding that that there was “zero leadership” from both sides of the aisle.
While the move is sure to differentiate Huntsman from the crowd, it remains to be seen whether it will also be an act of political suicide.
“Right now this country is crying out for a sensible middle ground,” he said. "Right now we have people on the fringes.... We have zero substance.”
No surprise, Huntsman believes that he can provide that middle ground, even if he is currently polling at less than 3 percent in most surveys.
He said that the “most important thing we can do is” create a competitive tax code that phases out loopholes, lowers the rate, and broadens the base. He also said that another important step would be to work toward energy independence and end the nation's “heroin-like dependence” on foreign oil.
But, in Huntsman’s view, his GOP opponents' extremism goes beyond economics. He cited last week’s comments from Texas Gov. Rick Perry that evolution and global warming are both just theories as proof of a “serious problem” in his party.
“The minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem,” he said. “We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.... I can't remember a time in our history where we actually were willing to shun science and become a party that was antithetical to science. I'm not sure that's good for our future, and it's not a winning formula."
But whether Huntsman himself has a winning formula is another story.
“He is mainstream America in what he says, but he’s not mainstream Republican. And this, after all, is a Republican primary,” said Republican pollster Frank Luntz, also appearing on This Week. “Republicans don’t want to hear Republicans attacking other Republicans.”
Luntz was quick to point out, however, that Huntsman is not the only Republican candidate with obstacles to overcome.
“[Voters] look at Mitt Romney and say he looks and sounds presidential, but they’re nervous about his taking different positions on issues over the years,” he said. “They look at Michele Bachmann and appreciate she’s a fighter… [but] they want to know what the plan is and don’t think she’s electable. Then they look at Rick Perry… [and] they’re wondering, has he said things or will he say things that don’t help him come November?”