By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman is counting on New Hampshire voters to boost his campaign when they hit the polls for the first-in-the-nation primary in January.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney came under fire from the Huntsman campaign recently for wanting to reduce defense spending to 4 percent of gross domestic product and sharply increase the number of naval vessels.

“I think it looks too much like an extension of the Cold War. We should not have a defense structure, a budget that’s tied to some percentage of GDP. That’s not the right strategy. I think we ought to have a defense budget that is an outgrowth of strategy, and I think that strategy ought to be consistent with our realities and our interests in the second decade of the 21st century,” said Huntsman, the former Utah Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to China.

Keller @ Large, Part 1:

And I believe our interests now, and our national security realities are, first and foremost, centered on counter-terrorism, not a large land war,” Huntsman continued. “That is tactical intelligence, that’s special forces deployment capabilities, that’s training with our friends and allies.”

Would a Huntsman presidency conduct an aggressive defense cost-cutting process?

“When you have 700 installations, Jon, in 60 different countries, more attuned to George Kennan’s view of the Cold War, circa 1946, I say we got to get with the reality of where we are today. I’d probably take a good percentage of those and say, let’s review ’em. If they’re not serving our current-day national security interests, they go,” said Huntsman.

Should Romney’s alleged flip-flops disqualify him from winning the Republican nomination?

“No, it just makes him a different candidate in the sense he’s been on both sides of all the major issues of the day, and that’s likely going to be of interest to voters,” said Huntsman.

What about Huntsman’s alleged flip-flopping with cap and trade, the 2009 stimulus package and healthcare?

“(On) the stimulus, we originally talked about a tax cut being part of that for businesses. I was completely in favor of that, and it should have been that way. That’s what I talked about in terms of how the stimulus should have been constructed early on,” said Huntsman.

“In terms of cap and trade, listen, the cap and trade was based on free market principles under the Clean Air Act of the early 1970’s. That was the model I wanted to see used. But, it became a tax increase scheme under the Democrats. And I say today, unless we recognize the reality of being a global problem, we’re downstream from the Chinese as the largest emitters, and unless we get together on what science means to both countries, in terms of how we evaluate and come up with solutions and fixes, we can’t do it unilaterally. It hurts our job creators. It’s not to say I’m shifting positions, I’m just recognizing the reality of the moment,” said Huntsman.

Keller @ Large, Part 2:

“The legislation I signed on healthcare was a market-based approach, a market-based plan. Did we talk about living with a mandate (versus) living without a mandate? Does a governor have the responsibility to argue and look at both sides of every significant issue that they’re confronted with? Absolutely. So, we had robust debates on a mandate. We talked about a free-market approach. And what ultimately I signed into legislation was a free-market approach,” said Huntsman.

Huntsman was also on the record of saying he had “no idea” whether his father, millionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., was funding television ads supporting the candidate in New Hampshire. But, he did say that large-scale campaign finance reform is needed.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

Jon Keller

Comments (4)
  1. Tsal says:

    Jon. Thank you for doing a topic on huntsman. The more I read about him, the more I like him. I have been disappointed during each debate that he had so little time. He crosses the aisle. I really like his recent plan for wall street. I’m not sure if we can do away totally with Fannie and freddie. I still have some research to do on that. But his too big to fail portion is great. Nothing in Dodd frank deals with too big to fail.

    I’m hoping for a good discussion here to learn even more about huntsman

  2. BostonIrish says:

    Huntsman is a low vote-getter, and his views are not in my interests. Loser.

  3. mikey says:

    Unfortunately for candidate Huntsman there is no room in the GOP clown-car for a qualified, intelligent person capable of leading this country. Our loss.

    This race has morphed into the “Gong Show.”

  4. tsal says:

    Hi mikey – how was your weekend? I am hoping the lack of discussion here is because it was a lovely weekend and everyone was busy. I agree with you completely. “we” say here time and time again that the country needs someone outside of the chosen few and then when one appears no one will consider him. I don’t get it.

    I voted for Obama and as everyone here knows I have supported him. What I’m faced with – along with many who consider themselves independents – is the very real possibility that if Obama is re-elected, the ultra right will spend the next four years blocking everything he attempts to do. I won’t get into my feelings about why that will happen because it’s moot at this moment.

    So – as is the case with many in my position – I need to look seriously at a GOP candidate. Huntsman caught my attention. Ron Paul seems honest but is too far right. I don’t always agree with Romney but I think he is close to the center and that he actually cares about this country.along with having some good ideas Bachman cares too I believe but she’s horribly unqualified IMHO.

    And who is the front runner – Gingrich. Centrists leaning to the right on here have even said he’s a joke. He campaigns on the fact he is the most conservative. Is the GOP so blind that it cannot see it needs someone closer to center Too far to EITHER extreme will simply be more of the same.

    I would be intrigued by a Romney/Huntsman ticket or even vice versa. I suspect many centrists leaning in either direction would be as well. I was hoping that would be some of the discussion here.