The morning after Jon Huntsman announced his presidential bid in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park, the former Utah governor made the rounds on morning talk shows.
Questions focused on the economy and President Obama’s Wednesday-night speech on a troop drawdown in Afghanistan.
Huntsman expressed hope that the president would announce a recalibration of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. He said on ABC’s Good Morning America that Obama’s drawdown sounded “a little slow and a little cautious” given current Afghanistan spending levels.
The United States “should move away from a heavy, expensive boots-on-the-ground strategy to a counterterror strategy, one heavy on intelligence gathering and targeted response environment,” he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “America’s future is not going to be won or lost in the prairies of Afghanistan.”
On the economy, Huntsman emphasized his experience balancing the budget as Utah’s governor. “We’re in economic dire straits,” he said on Good Morning America. “This country needs a serious conversation about where we go from here.”
He called the budget plan put forth by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., “a real proposal” on ABC, praising it for putting “concrete measures” on the table. On Fox & Friends, he said, “If I was lucky enough to be elected, I would embrace it.”
Huntsman also addressed three issues that may set him back in a GOP primary: his service to the Obama administration as ambassador to China, his Mormon faith, and his support for civil unions.
On his work as ambassador, Huntsman said on Morning Joe, “I put my country before party and anything else. I hope that’s a philosophy I take to my grave.” He said on Good Morning America that Obama is “a good man. He’s earnest and he’s hardworking. But we have fundamental disagreements on the country we both love.”
He waved off a question on CNN’s American Morning about how Christian evangelicals may be hesitant to support a Mormon, saying his record would show he is a conservative problem-solver, which he expects will “play very well among the early states.”
Huntsman also addressed his support for civil unions, saying that he believes traditional marriage shouldn’t be redefined but that civil unions are necessary to address the country’s shortcomings on equal rights. He was unwavering: “I’ve come out and I’ve stated my piece there. Some people like it and some people don’t, but it’s what I feel inside and I have to be honest about that,” he said on CNN.
Huntsman is scheduled to campaign in South Carolina on Wednesday. He will also make appearances in Florida, Utah, and Nevada this week.