Huntsman to Romney: Call me maybe

Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, Gregory Lemos & Sherisse Pham
Power PlayersSeptember 19, 2012

Spinners and Winners

Former Utah governor, ambassador to China, and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman knows a thing or two about diplomacy. And he was not pleased with Mitt Romney's response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

"Sometimes you make impetuous comments that you'd like to take back," says Huntsman.

"The initial comment" he continued, "I think was a little bit off, off key at a time when the nation is looking for calm, and looking for, I think, a message of unity, and some clarity about America's purpose and role in what is a highly incendiary region of the world right now and not looking for a political answer. And they may have gotten too much of a political answer."

Huntsman endorsed Romney in mid January, but has not done a single campaign event with the Republican presidential candidate and says he has not spoken to Romney since then.

"I've worked for some presidential candidates, the last two or three, you help them when they want help, and some have their own team, and that's perfectly understandable," says Huntsman.

Huntsman served as Ambassador to China under President Obama's administration, and says he would serve his country again ... if he were asked.

"If Mitt Romney ever needed help, if he wanted in his administration some assistance, and if we were willing in some unique capacity to actually help as opposed to just spin our wheels, then of course, as I did with President Obama, as I did with every president since President Reagan, I'd consider that," says Huntsman.

The former governor is enthusiastic about Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the campaign's vice presidential pick, and would like to see him put to better use.

"I would love to see Paul Ryan take ownership of the Ryan plan. I think it's tough medicine, but I believe the response from people would be, 'We understand the argument he's trying to make,'" says Huntsman.

Huntsman skipped the Republican National Convention in Tampa last month, saying that the GOP was not being as inclusive as it should be.

"We're not expanding our demographics. We're not thinking in terms of big, bold, optimistic solutions for this nation, we're doing a little too much pandering. We're doing a little bit too much in the way of pledge signing," says Huntsman. "We've got to get back to the big, bold visionary stuff, where we're not going to pander, we're going to talk about trust deficit, just like we talk about our fiscal deficit."

But when it comes down to it, he will be voting for Mitt Romney in November, though he stopped shy of predicting a Republican victory.

"Oh, I think it's a very competitive race. It may be too close to call."

For more on Jon Huntsman, including his thoughts on a 2016 run, check out this week's Spinners and Winners.