SARAH JACQUES / THE EAGLE
Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has come a long way from getting his “ticket to ride” by finishing third in the New Hampshire primaries.
“Put whatever I’m going to tell you tonight in proper perspective, because I’m just a loser,” Huntsman told students and alumni in the University Club on April 18 at the Kennedy Political Union’s final event of the year, co-sponsored by the AU College Republicans.
Huntsman previously served two terms as the governor of Utah and later as the ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.
But that service came with a price. His opponents in the Republican nomination campaign often criticized Huntsman for his status as a member of the Obama administration.
“I’m kind of an oddball Republican getting in the race,” he said. “[I] worked for a Democrat: I wouldn’t trade that for anything. You know why? Because I believe at the end of the day we’re Americans first and foremost, and we forget that sometimes.”
But that didn’t stop him from jumping into the race anyway, even though “the odds may have been long,” he said.
“For one not to be wiling to stand up during what I think is the most important election of my lifetime, it would have been unpatriotic,” Huntsman told The Eagle.
The Huntsman campaign suffered in other ways. He lost momentum when he entered the race late, he said, and he also refused to participate in “exercises in pandering,” like the Iowa straw poll, he told ATV.
Huntsman said that his wife Mary Kaye told him, “‘If you pander, if you sign those silly, damn pledges, I will leave you.’”
It didn’t help when he received partial endorsements from Democrats such as Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
“And then I knew we were so toast,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman said, this country has a “trust deficit,” citing a polarized campaign system and the Congress’ 8 percent approval rating.
Huntsman also said that the Republican Party is suffering under stagnant thinking, especially when it comes to advocating for civil unions for gay couples and measures to reduce the effects of climate change.
“We might be so far adrift that we’re forever in trouble,” Huntsman said about his party.
Huntsman dropped out of the presidential race in January, shortly after putting most of his resources into winning the New Hampshire primary six days earlier.
Huntsman simultaneously endorsed his opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, even though he has “been on two or three sides of every issue,” he told ATV in an interview.
He even contradicted Romney’s narrative of running a government like a business.
“Government ain’t a business,” Huntsman told the AU community. “And in many cases, government can’t be operated like a business. It is mostly a not-for-profit.”
As for Huntsman’s future, he rejected the idea of running as an independent in this presidential election, even with Americans Elect, an new online political party that has placed Huntsman as its second most popular “draft candidate,” below Texas Congressman Ron Paul by about 5,000 votes.
Huntsman also wasn’t keen on the idea of being appointed to a cabinet position under a hypothetical Romney administration, even as secretary of state. He said it was as likely as “David Grohl of the Foo Fighters asking me to be their new keyboard player.”
Though he did say he would accept either position if offered.
“I would gladly accept [Grohl’s offer], because I’m a musician first and foremost…but I also believe in serving my country,” Huntsman said, “and I will always put my country first and do whatever I can to make her a better, stronger place.”