Behind the red carpet treatment of Jon Huntsman

GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, a man so reasonable that Gallup has placed him dead last in its latest poll, won a standing ovation from a chamber full of lawmakers at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

In part, merely because he showed up.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (left) addresses House members Wednesday at the invitation of Speaker David Ralston. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (left) addresses House members Wednesday at the invitation of Speaker David Ralston. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

In the high-drama Republican sweepstakes for the right to face down President Barack Obama, Georgia again is playing the role of the loyal and reliable ATM. We are an open wallet for the candidate who needs money to spend — in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.

Huntsman was the first Republican in the field to visit the state Capitol since then-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty last November.

This, of course, doesn’t count Newt Gingrich, who at one point was supposed to be running a Georgia-centric, favorite-son campaign. Not even Herman Cain, whose headquarters is in Stockbridge, has thought it worthwhile to publicly tap the Capitol for electoral help.

Which is one reason why House Speaker David Ralston rolled out the red carpet for Huntsman. Moreover, the speaker said he’d be willing to do the same for any presidential candidate — Democrat or Republican. (Somebody send a note to the White House.)

“It’s good for them to know that Georgia is an important place. Rather than go see them, I think it’s good for them to come to see us,” Ralston told his members. Consider that a small dig at Gov. Rick Perry, who has invited state lawmakers to fly to Texas to get a feel for the candidate.

Huntsman is no dummy. He quickly picked up on Ralston’s message. “Serious candidates come here to the statehouse. You shouldn’t have to go to them. Just remember that,” Huntsman told lawmakers.

Overall, the former U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore delivered an upbeat, Reaganesque message. “We are a blue-sky, optimistic people. We’re going to find solutions. We always do,” Huntsman said.

He spoke of his China experience. “You walk the streets of Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, and there’s energy. There’s a level of enthusiasm,” Huntsman said. “I just want to remind you what this country has. We have everything this country needs to succeed, and we forget that sometimes.”

Afterward, Huntsman hung around for a few photographs with lawmakers. Democrats were just as eager to be seen with him as Republicans.

This was a reconnoitering mission for Huntsman, not a messaging opportunity. Reporters were limited to a single, impromptu encounter in which Huntsman declined to take a pot shot at Joe Biden.

The vice president’s just-finished tour of Asia included a stop in Beijing to reassure the leaders of China — which holds more of our debt than any other foreign country — that the U.S. government remains a sound investment.

Rather, Huntsman endorsed the visit. “This dialogue between the United States and China is very, very important. It’s gone on for 40 years, Republicans and Democrats alike,” he said. “We need to understand their intentions; they need to understand our intentions.”

Because he is not — by temperament — a red-meat candidate, because of his Mormon religion, and because Gallup says he’s earned the support of only 1 percent of the Republican electorate, it would be easy to dismiss Huntsman as a man of a GOP middle that no longer exists.

Perry — whom Gallup pronounced the new GOP frontrunner on Wednesday — is quickly becoming the favorite of many Republicans in the Capitol. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has made fundraising forays into Georgia, this week made public his list of supporters at the Capitol: six lawmakers, a member of the Public Service Commission, and an attorney general.

But there is every reason to think that Huntsman is taking Georgia seriously. Asked by reporters whether he favors increased revenues to address a $14 trillion federal debt, Huntsman said — of course — that he opposed any tax increases.

“But I would phase out the loopholes and the deductions and biases in a terribly antiquated tax code. It is broken and every American knows it,” Huntsman said — an answer that sounded very much like U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and his Gang of Six.

In fact, Chambliss’ office later confirmed that the senator and Huntsman have had conversations. Likewise, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Huntsman has at least two friends in the state Capitol. State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, is still pledged to Gingrich, but on Wednesday he squired Huntsman to meetings with the Senate majority leader, governor and Ralston. Wilkinson said his friendship with Huntsman dates back to their Reagan White House years.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs, a deeply conservative Republican, counts himself as an out-and-out Huntsman supporter. In part because they both have sons in the same class at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

A Buckhead fundraiser for Huntsman turned out perhaps 60 people on Tuesday evening, including former House speaker Terry Coleman, a Democrat. Many of those who attended, in private conversations, wondered whether they were meeting a 2012 presidential candidate, or a leader of the next, more libertarian-minded generation of Republican voters.

Huntsman is giving some thought to a return visit to Georgia next month. One suggestion: He has made clear to CNN that he can say “Nimen hao!” in a fine Beijing accent. Surely, in a few short weeks, he can wrap his tongue around “Hey, y’all!

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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33 comments Add your comment

td

August 24th, 2011
6:21 pm

Huntsman is a nice guy but he will never win the Republican nomination. His candidacy would be the same as Zell miller running for the Democratic nomination.

double

August 24th, 2011
6:34 pm

I think Hey Y’all would be more understood.

eatmotacos

August 24th, 2011
6:35 pm

One unmentioned fact about Huntsman is that his father is a billionaire. Unlike our destitute governor, he isn’t in it for the money. Since he’s not using the office for personal gain, he can actually focus on doing the job. On that basis, and the fact that he actually makes sense, he doesn’t stand a chance with Georgia’s voters.

Smoke

August 24th, 2011
6:48 pm

Huntsman forgot that Boehner and Ryan have already walked away from even having a conversation with Obama about “phase out the loopholes and the deductions and biases in a terribly antiquated tax code.” Clarence Chambliss has already been called a RINO for even hinting the thought.

Smoke

August 24th, 2011
6:52 pm

“The vice president’s just-finished tour of Asia included a stop in Beijing to reassure the leaders of China — which holds more of our debt than any other foreign country — that the U.S. government remains a sound investment.” Just imagine VP Palin telling them Chinese, “yeah, we didn’t approve of increasing the debt ceiling, what y’all gonna do about it!” Huntsman, you ain’t a Democrat, but you are in the wrong party.

Smoke

August 24th, 2011
6:57 pm

Hey td, Zell Miller would poll better than Huntsman in Georgia. I just thought about something, if Reagan hadn’t help shut down Milledgeville, our debt would be way higher subsidizing delirous southern liberals and digbat southern conservatives.

Centrist

August 24th, 2011
7:15 pm

The only meaningful think I got from this blog was “because Gallup says he’s earned the support of only 1 percent of the Republican electorate, it would be easy to dismiss Huntsman”.

He is not running for President in 2012, but something else while he lives and is treated well on the campaign trail.

Centrist

August 24th, 2011
7:21 pm

@ Smoke (apt description) – Your revisionism of how it was Obama who reneged on the tentative deal that had $800 billion in revenue via loophole closures and cuts in deductions is absurd – but typical of liberals.

Will

August 24th, 2011
7:31 pm

Huntsman is a pro-business republican who is not a puppet of the radical repulican/tea party revolutionary wing of the republican party. He is not a prisoner of social issues.

I cast my first vote in 1964 and have voted for only one republican and that was really a protest vote against President Clinton’s embarassing lack of a moral compass.

If John Huntsman were nominated by the republicans, I would contribute to his campaign and vote for him.

Unfortunately, the chances of the republican party, wholly owned and operated by the radical republican/tea party revolutionary wing, nominated John Huntsman are about the same as the republican party nominating President Obama.

[...] Speaking at the Georgia state Capitol today Jon Huntsman received a standing ovation from the assembled legislators and delivered a nice jab at Rick Perry in the process. Huntsman is no dummy. He quickly picked up on Ralston’s message. “Serious candidates come here to the statehouse. You shouldn’t have to go to them. Just remember that,” Huntsman told lawmakers. [...]

Ghost Rider

August 24th, 2011
9:05 pm

” (Somebody send a note to the White House.)”

Yeah, the note should read, “Start packing. Your moving van will be here in January, 2013. Try to set a beter example than the Clintons by not attempting to steal everything that isn’t nailed down.”

Ghost Rider

August 24th, 2011
9:17 pm

td:

Huntsman truly appears more of a democrat than a Republican. Maybe I just haven’t read as much about him as I should have. I’ll add that to my ‘To Do’ list.

BTW, I saw video of two democrat Congresswomen addressing groups about the TEA Party. Their comments were unflattering, and both sounded as if they would like to lead a lynch mob. It didn’t take but a second to realize that a very high number of their constituents probably are welfare recipients.

double

August 24th, 2011
9:25 pm

Ghost you claim to be a christian.You love every R,and knock every D.If I didn’t know better would think you related to that awful old last man standing.Bring on Perry.Jan. 2013 we will see.

Ghost Rider

August 24th, 2011
9:38 pm

Obama will soon be history, and a very sad chapter in history indeed!

jen

August 24th, 2011
10:30 pm

I wish all of the Republicans in this state were history. The terrorist Republicans have run this state and this country into the ground. Thank God I’m never having kids. No future at all for anyone. Republicans have driven this country into the toilet.

Georgia Values

August 24th, 2011
11:48 pm

You know what? I really like Huntsman. He will be dismissed by the extreme far right and dismembered by the leftist Obamacentric media. But he might just be the right person to lead America forward. Obama is a self centered, abysmal failure, and is destroying the very fabric of America. He must be replaced. Could this be the time that a center-right nation finally elects a center-right president? One who actually understands our proper role in foreign affairs.

Cheryl

August 24th, 2011
11:51 pm

Ghost Rider You are so true Obama will MAKE history agian!!! Kudos!

Alabama Communist

August 25th, 2011
1:13 am

No doubt the Republican Reps at the State Capital will even greet Attila The Hun and give him a standing cheer that even a Huntsman would choke on..

Alabama Communist

August 25th, 2011
1:13 am

No doubt the Republican Reps at the State Capital will even greet Attila The Hun and give him a standing cheer that even a Huntsman would choke on..

Cathy D. Wright

August 25th, 2011
1:29 am

I hate him. He believes in evolution. Our Heavenly Father created us, not a monkey. He should come to a prayer meeting with me to optimize his knowledge of man and the Father.

The Original Cathy

Z

August 25th, 2011
5:35 am

Huntsman, a moderate of yesteryear republican’s, the only decent candidate running on the GOP side..sadly he doesn’t have a chance, not with the Tea Party radicals running the show. Huntsman is just not Fanatic enough for the Tea’s. No, and just to show how ignorant or should I say stupid, the Tea’s really are, they will instead pick a Texan, Madcow-boy Perry who is literally running the state of Texas into the ground and would do the same to these United States if given the chance. No way Independents will vote for Madcow-boy Perry.
Obama will get the 4 more years..and probably take back the house and keep control of the Senate. Birds of feather, flock together..that be, the Tea’s and Fanatic’s or just one in the same republicans that have always been on the radical right, they just needed another name to disguise their Fruitcake Fanatic’s.. Ah, we give you “The Tea Party”. Sadly too many sheep fell for the poison feed, “propaganda”. Thankfully more and more sheep are avoiding the cliff and have seen the grass on the other side of the fence is much greener and tastier.

jim

August 25th, 2011
5:44 am

Cathy pray for him, love him but hate his ways.

waterstim

August 25th, 2011
6:08 am

Anyone who would donate to Harry Reid’s campaign would never get my vote under ANY circumstance. GO RICK PERRY. Time for real Americans to take our country back from filthy stinking pro-gay-marriage liberals.

Ed Ruffin

August 25th, 2011
7:19 am

Waterstim has it right…………..if today’s tags and slogans had been used during the founding of our nation, the Founding Fathers would have been Conservatives. We need to go back to that benchmark and forget liberals, socialist, democrats, marxists………oh, sorry, I repeat myself.

crabby

August 25th, 2011
11:03 am

Ghostrider:
Why do you think Obama has been such a sad chapter in our history? Just think, things could be worse. We could have:
1. 10.2% percent unemployment like we did this time of the Reagan Administration
2. A collapse of the the Savings and Loan industry like we during the GHW Bush Administration
3. An impeachment of the President for lying under oath during the Clinton Administration
4. A collapse of the mortgage and investment banking system under the GW Bush Administration

Big Hat

August 25th, 2011
11:36 am

And when did the GA LEgislature start treating non-Christian cult members the same way as Christians?

oh please

August 25th, 2011
12:35 pm

let there be a viable moderate candidate in this – or any – race!!

a moderate

August 25th, 2011
12:37 pm

@ Cathy – “I hate him. He believes in evolution. Our Heavenly Father created us, not a monkey. He should come to a prayer meeting with me to optimize his knowledge of man and the Father.”

Wow. No crazy here. And we’re all wondering what’s wrong with American politics? LOL

SomewhereInTheMiddleIn/OfCA

August 25th, 2011
1:10 pm

I voted Obama last time. I would vote for Huntsman in a split second. The guy is just flat out impressive in every interview I’ve seen with him (looking forward to Meet the Press on Sunday). I suspect that if the other candidates don’t flame out and leave the door open for him this time around, he might run again in 2016, by which time Republicans might actually be somewhat interested in winning general elections, and not right-wing popularity contests.

Also, @Cathy, you must have a lot of room for hate in your heart if belief in evolution is the sole requirement for earning that kind of reactionary scorn. I’m sure the Heavenly Father is quite proud.

North Ga Rules

August 25th, 2011
4:49 pm

Hansome, educated, successful businessman. The voice of reason in an extreme process. Maybe next time Huntsman will bring his wives with him

207boy

August 27th, 2011
12:22 am

1. Huntsman is a proven conservative who actually understands the economy
2. Huntsman is a proven leader who actually understands the world
3. He didn’t give money to Harry Reid – his dad did
4. Even if he believes in evolution, he still believes in God, and there are more important issues
5. He is principled and has morals, is the most pro-life candidate of them all

Cathy D. Wright

August 30th, 2011
10:09 pm

I am no crazy. I even counciled a gay co-worker who is “divorcing” his longterm partner!!! I think that makes me very TOLERANT!!!!!

Cathy D. Wright

August 30th, 2011
10:22 pm

I also counciled a supervisor who was a PROSTITUTE in the past. The Heavenly Father would be pleased. Both of them are better off now. God speaks to me and I use it to motivize my people no matter if sinners or not!!!