NEWMARKET, N.H. – Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman will not participate in tonight’s New Hampshire presidential debate. Yet he told CNN today that he could announce a run for president in the next week and a half.
The announcement will come as no surprise to voters who heard Huntsman this weekend as he campaigned in New Hampshire with his wife and three of his daughters.
“I’ve been at this one month, and am checking the last few boxes en route to a final decision, which we’re going to get to very, very soon,’’ Huntsman told around 35 voters at a house party in Newmarket on Friday.
Huntsman’s New Hampshire schedule included eight appearances Friday and Saturday.
And he told reporters how fast his campaign has burgeoned. “We’ve gone from 0 to 60 as fast as any campaign I’ve ever seen,’’ he said.
Asked about his decision not to participate in the debate, Huntsman said once he makes a final decision whether to run, “We’ll be ready for all the debates that will be on the schedule.’’ Meanwhile, he said, he is engaging in the retail politics New Hampshire is known for. “It all begins with discussions in homes of ordinary citizens in New Hampshire,’’ he said.
Last month, Huntsman announced his decision not to participate with a similar statement, stressing his commitment to the New Hampshire primary and his decision not to compete in any debates until a formal announcement.
In the meantime, Huntsman has been laying the groundwork for a potential campaign theme of restoring America’s competitiveness. “This country is in a deep funk,’’ Huntsman said Friday.
He said the country must get a handle on debt and spending and must create “another industrial revolution.’’ Huntsman said he supports a balanced budget amendment, and would use regulatory and tax reform to encourage free market innovation.
Huntsman also stressed the need to limit America’s dependence on foreign oil. At some point, Huntsman said, the United States will learn to use wind and solar technology in a cost-effective way. Until then, he said, increasing natural gas usage is the best solution.
Huntsman said he supports parts of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan. He favors distributing Medicaid money as block grants to states, letting states tailor their programs. He supports Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program for workers who are now under age 55. He said he wished Ryan’s plan addressed Social Security.
While some Republicans have criticized Huntsman for serving as ambassador to China under President Obama, several attendees at the house party here said they saw Huntsman’s job as a plus. “China will be very important to our future,’’ said Dennis Brady, a retiree from Exeter. “It’s strong competition for the US. We need someone who knows his way around foreign relations.’’
Huntsman, considered a moderate Republican, makes no apologies for his bipartisan appeal. When New Hampshire State Rep. Jim Waddell told Huntsman that Waddell’s son, a Utah Democrat, voted for Huntsman for governor, Huntsman, who won the 2008 race with 77 percent of the vote, responded that he “got more Democratic votes than my Democratic opponent.’’