Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman wants to be America’s Ryan Budget hero.
The committed moderate and former Obama administration ambassador to China kicks off his campaign today, and according to previews, he plans to make strong support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal to end Medicare as we know it a key component of his kick off speech.Politico‘s Mike Allen spilled the beans about Huntsman’s Reagan-themed kickoff in Jersey City, NJ.
“Huntsman will lean into his support for the Ryan budget, and will say that defense spending should be on the table, including base closures,” Allen reports. He writes the opening week of Huntsman 2012 will include taking on Obama over foreign policy, too, specifically, “his contention that Obama’s plan for getting out of Afghanistan is too slow, and that intervening in Libya was not in our national interest.”
Huntsman was one of the first to wrap both hands around Ryan budget, telling ABC a couple weeks ago that he’d vote for the Medicare changes contained in it if he got the chance.
This puts him to the right of the so-called frontrunners in the Republican presidential primary. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have both expressed strong support for the Ryan plan, but have also promised their own — different — solutions to entitlements that most expect wil not contain the same amount of political napalm found in Ryan’s proposal.
When it comes to foreign policy, Pawlenty has proposed very deep cuts to the budget like Ryan, but has taken defense off the table. Romney recently expressed some interest in backing out of Afghanistan, but that caused some of his Republican supporters to freak out.
Oh, also: Hunstman’s in favor of gay civil unions and doesn’t think climate change is a myth. Neither view is especially thrilling to Republican primary voters (though some have argued the gay rights thing isn’t as not thrilling as you’d perhaps expect.)
At the Faith And Freedom Conference earlier this month, Huntsman cast himself as a social conservative, selling his record on abortion as one of the toughest in the land.
He also trying to grab the fiscal conservative mantle in ways beyond the Ryan plan, expressing support for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Still, conservatives don’t seem to like him much. Over at RedState, Erick Erickson has attacked Huntsman for setting up a presidential run while serving as ambassador to China. Erickson says Huntsman’s current campaign raises questions about his loyalty to his job while in China.
The conservatives over at Verum Serum produced a satirical Huntsman ad highlighting his past moderate stances on all sorts of things ranging from cap-and-trade to calling health care “a right.”
Democrats, meanwhile, put out their own parody version of Huntsman’s unique campaign teaser ads, which show a lone dirt biker driving across the desert. The Democratic parody calls out Huntsman as a flip-flopper. Democrats are gearing up more attacks for tomorrow to coincide with the announcement.
It’s not exactly clear what all this adds up to. Huntsman is slick, rich and extremely presidential in appearance (or at least what we thought that word meant before a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama won the job). His entry into the races is being heralded as the arrival of a man who could really challenge Romney for the nomination.
Polls have been less indicative of that. Huntsman is skipping Iowa (where one poll found him with one — count it — supporter), and the latest numbers from New Hampshire show him polling in the low single digits.
Nevertheless, anticipation of Huntsman’s arrival on the scene is, officially, A Big Deal. So stay tuned — everyone else will be.