Jon Huntsman: The Ryan Budget-Lovingest Republican Ever

June 1, 2011 4:30 a.m.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who took his first steps into the Republican presidential field as a moderate, has over the past month turned himself into something far from the center when it comes to Medicare. From throwing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) more love than anyone to grabbing onto Ryan’s Medicare-destroying budget with both hands, Huntsman’s separating himself from the pack: No one running for president, it seems, is more excited about the Republican budget plan than him.

In an op-ed published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, Huntsman calls Ryan’s plan an “honest attempt to save Medicare” and he calls on critics to put up their own plan or shut up about the GOP’s. But that’s among the more subtle love he’s thrown Ryan and his budget in the recent past — on Tuesday, Hunstman called Ryan one of the two Republicans alive he admires most.The moment came in an interview with RealClearPolitics’ Erin McPike, who caught up with Huntsman as he stumped across New Hampshire. Huntsman, President Obama’s former ambassador to China, has faced questions from conservatives over just how pure he is on right-wing issues.

It’s not the first time Huntsman’s stood firmly behind the Ryan Medicare proposals which polls have shown to be a political liability for Republicans. Speaking with ABC News last month, Huntsman said he would have voted for Ryan’s plan, “including the Medicare provisions.”

In the interview with McPike and the WSJ op-ed, Huntsman has not left much room to his right on the entitlement issue. He’s staking out a position that puts him to the right of Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, both of whom have expressed admiration for Ryan but have promised to offer their own — different — plans to handle entitlement programs.

Huntsman appears to have found his.

“I admire the single-minded, intense focus on finding solutions,” Huntsman said of Ryan in the RCP interview.

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