In his first major television interview of his likely presidential campaign rollout this morning, former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman avoided his own Newt Gingrich moment. The House Republican plan to privatize Medicare? Count Huntsman in.
“I would’ve voted for it,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Friday morning. “Including the Medicare provisions.”
Huntsman, President Obama’s last ambassador to China, is best known for his moderate positions on hot-button conservative issues like civil unions (he’s for them), man-made climate change (he believes it exists) and even college tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants (he opposed Republican efforts to end them in Utah while Governor.)
He stood by all those positions in the interview with Stephanopoulos, staking his claim on the social moderate end of the Republican presidential field. But when it comes Republican plan to eliminate Medicare in favor of a voucher system, Huntsman’s now staked his claim on the field’s far right end.
Few candidates have come out with the full-throated support for the plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) Huntsman did today. Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is supportive of the plan generally, but has said he’ll offer his own solution for dealing with Medicare. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) also promised to release his own plan, while speaking in generally supportive terms of the Ryan scheme.
Gingrich, of course, saw his campaign implode after he criticized the Ryan plan in his first major TV interview as a 2012 candidate.
Huntsman didn’t fall into that trap on Friday, but he did position himself as the defender of a plan polls show voters don’t want any part of.
Here’s what that sounded like, from the transcript of Huntsman’s interview with Stephanopoulos:
[T]he only thing that scares me more than that is the trajectory that our debt is taking. And the trajectory that our debt is taking now beyond $14 trillion is going to have an impact on our currency. It goes south, and our currency’s going to have an impact on our standard of living and affect every family in this country, and over time, our international competitiveness. So what is really scary I think to me and I think most Americans is our debt. And we’ve got to be bold, and we’ve got to have, I think, proposals on the table that perhaps in years past would’ve been laughed out of the room. And we’ve got to look seriously at them. We don’t have a choice. We’ve hit the wall.