Bloomberg News

Huntsman Calls Rove’s Primary Plan ‘Yesterday’s Ballgame’

February 09, 2013

Former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman called strategist Karl Rove “yesterday’s ballgame” as he urged his party to shun political tactics in favor of ideas on improving government.

Huntsman dismissed as “politics, you know,” Rove’s plan to financially support in Republican primaries candidates who are deemed more electable in November. The effort has drawn attacks from anti-tax Tea Party groups and other conservative activists.

“I think he’s kind of yesterday’s ballgame,” Huntsman said of Rove during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “Politics isn’t going to win the elections for us. It’s not about people. It’s about ideas. And the ideas are going to drive people to victory.”

Those ideas should include changing the way government works, such as restrictions on campaign spending, limiting congressional terms, requiring nonpartisan redistricting, and taking on banks deemed too big to fail, Huntsman said.

“We don’t have any ideas now that are big enough and bold enough and visionary enough for most Americans to say, ‘I like that, I want to sign on, and I want that person to lead me to the future,’” Huntsman, 52, said of his party.

The party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan has “a whole vast literature of things we’ve done to shape this country into what it is today,” Huntsman said.

No Labels

Huntsman, a former Utah governor, and Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, are the national leaders of No Labels, a group urging representatives of both parties to reach bipartisan solutions.

Along those lines, Huntsman said that added tax revenue sought by Democrats and cuts to entitlement programs pushed by Republicans should all be weighed as solutions for avoiding $1.2 trillion in automatic spending reductions set to begin next month.

Huntsman said tax loopholes should be curtailed, providing the government with more money.

“Some see it as revenue raising,” Huntsman said of his proposal. “I see it as cleaning the tax code of all of the encumbrances that keep us from growing.”

He also said that spending cuts should involve entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, rather than fall solely on defense and domestic programs.

“You want to blow a hole in basic research and education support and other very important non-discretionary matters? This is how you do it, which hurts the economy,” he said of the automatic cuts.

Birther Issue

Huntsman sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and dropped out after finishing third in the New Hampshire primary last year. He endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who lost to President Barack Obama in the general election.

As part of a winning election strategy, Huntsman said Republicans can no longer be the party that questions whether Obama’s birth certificate is real.

“The next big thing for Republicans is going to be how you make the system work, which is reforming government,” he said. “There’s a mood change in this country that says, ‘All right, you’ve blown up the system, now you’ve got to make it work.’”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who in a speech last month to fellow Republican leaders stressed the need to “stop being the stupid party,” had said in 2011 he would sign legislation requiring presidential candidates to prove they were U.S. citizens.

“It’s a message bill,” Huntsman said of that measure. “Messaging and pandering and pledge-signing are all things that take our eye off the ball. We ought to be focused on a strategy for this country that speaks to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, growing the economic base, and giving people opportunity. If we’re not focused on that, we’re wasting time.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.


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