Club for Growth on Jon Huntsman

Just like in 2008, the Club for Growth is putting together a series of white papers on candidates running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. They’ve already looked into the records of Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. The next candidate under the microscope is Jon Huntsman, who formally announced his campaign on Tuesday.

Jon Huntsman is being pegged as 2012’s John McCain, a moderate-ish Republican that has crossover appeal. But he does have some conservative credentials, such as a generally solid record on taxes. The Club notes that Huntsman cut over $400 million in taxes from 2005 to 2007, though he did raise fees and proposed a cigarette taxes hike during his time as governor.

While the Club makes note of his “B” on fiscal policy Cato Institute in 2006 (a grade that is largely due to his record on taxes), they also point out that Huntsman received an “F” on spending in the same report:

Where Huntsman fails utterly is on spending. He has proposed an annual average
hike in spending of close to 6 percent in real per capita terms, which substantially outstrips personal income growth in Utah, and makes him one of the biggest spending governors in the nation.

They also remind us that Huntsman criticized President Barack Obama’s stimulus spending, not because it was an exercise in futility, but because it didn’t spend enough:

[W]hen he was asked about how large the Stimulus should have been, Governor Huntsman said:

Well, the size of about a trillion dollars was floated by Mark Zandi, who’s a very respected economist. I tend to believe what he is saying about the size of the package, which didn’t necessarily hit the mark in terms of size.

This makes it clear that he is referring to the stimulus passed by President Obama. Governor Huntsman also stated that “if I were in Congress, I probably would not have voted in favor because it didn’t have enough stimulus and probably wasn’t big enough to begin with.”

They note some concerns on regulatory policy, such as past support for increasing the minimum wage and his support of cap-and-trade; a position of Huntsman’s that we’ve previously pointed out here. Huntsman’s record on school choice appears to be mixed. But they give him top marks on free trade.

Another concerning mark on Huntsman’s record is entitlements. Huntsman recently criticized Mitt Romney, saying that he doesn’t have any credibility on health care due to RomneyCare, which has been a disaster in Massachusetts. However, the Club points out Huntsman’s own statements:

Governor Huntsman’s general ideological attitude towards health care is very concerning. He once said “health care is a right,”  and he once threatened insurance companies in Utah with adding mandates if they did not reduce the price of health insurance, saying that after a year of asking “If that doesn’t work, then I think we’re looking very realistically at an individual mandate in getting us to where I think we need to be.”

So how does Huntsman have any more credibility on health care, outside of not passing a bill that carried an individual mandate? Well, he doesn’t. He seemed to favor, at least at one time, an approach that Romney took.

The bottomline that the Club for Growth offers on Huntsman is possibly worse than the knock they gave Romney:

Governor Huntsman is often a frustrating political figure. He pushed for and passed significant pro-growth tax policies, but promoted and passed large increases in state spending. He’s demonstrated a clear understanding of the benefits of global free markets, but is lukewarm on school choice. Governor Huntsman also supported a bigger stimulus bill, TARP, and was a leading advocate of cap-and-trade.
In addition, we find Governor Huntsman’s statement that “health care is a right” to be simply flabbergasting. We’re not sure what part of the United States Constitution Governor Huntsman was referring to when he made that statement, but he certainly needs to explain what he was thinking.

In the end, it is Governor Huntsman’s spending record that is inexcusable. There is now widespread recognition that the next President must address the enormous threat posed by federal spending that threatens national bankruptcy. Huntsman’s failing grades on controlling state spending raise serious questions about whether he would be equal to that task.

We believe that pro-growth conservatives looking for a kindred spirit in Governor Huntsman will probably find common ground on trade and taxes, but they will most likely be disappointed overall if he is elected President.

Huntsman isn’t really being looked as someone likely to win the nomination give his low poll numbers and since he has almost no appeal to grassroots conservatives and the tea party.


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