New Hampshire Debate: Jon Huntsman Defends Serving Obama Administration

New Hampshire Debate: Jon Huntsman Defends Serving Obama Administration, The one aspect of Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman that has not been talked about much by his rivals throughout the 2012 campaign season is his work under the Obama administration.

Although Mr. Huntsman himself has constantly referred to his experience as U.S. Ambassador to China as a positive, none of the other candidates have used his connection to President Barack Obama as a negative appeal to conservative voters who dislike the president, until Sunday’s NBC News debate in New Hampshire.

Mr. Huntsman directly addressed his rival candidate Mitt Romney for criticizing him during Saturday night’s ABC News debate, for working directly under the man that one of them will eventually try to replace in November, President Obama.

“First of all, with respect to Governor Romney, you know, there are a lot of people who are tuning in this morning. And I’m sure they’re terribly confused after watching all of this political spin up here. I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first,” said Mr. Huntsman. “He criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat. Like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking what political affiliation the president is. I wanna be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country. I will always put my country first. And I think that’s important to them.”

This was the first debate where Mr. Huntsman truly defined his political ideology as a conservative and separated that from his term as U.S. Ambassador to China under Mr. Obama.

The president appointed Mr. Huntsman to the position in August of 2009, and he then retired from that post in January of last year to pursue a run for the Republican nomination to replace the man who had just hired him.

While his experience abroad is obviously a high mark on his political record, the connection to Mr. Obama could be seen as a negative to so many Republican voters, who dislike Mr. Obama just as much if not more than the Republican nominees that they currently have to choose from.

Mr. Romney addressed the connection between Mr. Huntsman and Mr. Obama. While commending him for serving the country abroad, he also criticized him for speaking highly of the president while working under him.

“I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama’s agenda. I think the decision to go and work for President Obama is one which you took,” said Mr. Romney. “I don’t disrespect your decision to do that. I just think it’s most likely that the person who should represent our party running against President Obama is not someone who called him a remarkable leader and went to be his ambassador in China.”

Mr. Huntsman made an appeal to Republican voters, and voters of all affiliations in his response. He addressed the bipartisan bickering that in 2011 lead to one of the lowest job approval ratings of Congress in U.S. history, calling for more partisan unity and less division in politics going forward.

“This nation is divided, because of attitudes like that,” said Mr. Huntsman in response to Mr. Romney’s criticism. ”The American people are tired of the partisan division. They have had enough. There is no trust left among the American people in the institutions of power and among the American people and our elected officials.”

Mr. Huntsman has pinned his campaign hopes on a strong commitment to courting voters in New Hampshire over the last several months. The MSNBC poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters released Friday shows the former Utah governor tied with Newt Gingrich in fourth place behind the surging Rick Santorum.

Mr. Huntsman is hoping that his performance in both debates this weekend will help improve his chances at a top tier finish in the New Hampshire primary election Tuesday.
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