NBC Reporter to Huntsman: Are Perry and Bachmann 'Too Far Right to Win?'

On Thursday's Today show NBC's Savannah Guthrie prodded Jon Huntsman to slam his fellow GOP presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann as too conservative, as she pressed the former Governor of Utah: "Are they too far right to win and beat President Obama?"

For his part, Huntsman played into Guthrie's portrayal of his competitors by responding that the American people "don't want politics at the extreme ends," as seen in the following exchange:

(video after the jump)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Do you think that Governor Perry or Michele Bachmann are too far right to win and beat President Obama?

JON HUNTSMAN: Listen, all I can tell you is that the people of this country, they want common sense problem solving solutions. They don't want politics at the extreme ends.

GUTHRIE: Alright.

HUNTSMAN: And what we're getting today is politics at the extreme ends and we can do better than that.

Prior to that question Guthrie, who was substitute hosting, pointed out that Huntsman had served under Obama and had disagreed with his fellow Republicans on issues like the debt ceiling, and climate change and actually asked: "Are you sure you should be running in the Republican primary of 2011?"

The following is a full transcript of interview as it was aired on the September 1 Today show:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman joins us now exclusively. Governor, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Will Jon Huntsman's Plan Get Americans Back To Work?"]

JON HUNTSMAN: Hi Savannah. Good to, good to be with you.

GUTHRIE: Let's briefly talk about this scheduling kerfuffle. I mean where do you come down on this, very quickly. Do you think that Speaker Boehner should have accommodated the President of the United States? Or do you think the President kind of blew it by not agreeing on the date behind the scenes, before announcing it publicly?

HUNTSMAN: I think it is such nonsense Savannah. This is what people hate about politics. We're spending all this time about the drama of the venue, about the substance of what's gonna get this country back to work again. I think that venues are venues and the President needs to find one where he can articulate his vision. But for two-and-a-half years it hasn't worked. The economy has stalled. We don't have enough jobs. We need to get on with the big picture that will get this country back to work again.

GUTHRIE: Well let's talk about your jobs plan. You unveiled it yesterday and essentially your strategy for creating jobs is to cut taxes, cut corporate taxes significantly and hope companies will hire. My question to you is, at this very moment corporations are sitting on trillions of cash on their balance sheets and they're still not hiring. Why will your plan work?

HUNTSMAN: My plan is to do what I've done as governor of a state that worked. I have been there and I've done that. I have been through tax reform before and I've seen it improve the economic conditions. People - you know the reason we have a broken tax code, in part, is because it's full of loopholes and deductions and subsidies and corporate welfare. And it is perpetuated by people who can afford the lawyers and the lobbyists to keep it going. And all I'm saying, in order to be competitive through the rest of the 21st century, in order to compete with the likes of China and India, in order to get the jobs this country so desperately needs, we've got to clean out the code. We've got to wipe it clean. We've got to lower the rate. We've got to broaden the base, both on the individual income side and on the corporate side.

GUTHRIE: Governor-

HUNTSMAN: There aren't a whole lot of corporations that are paying the 35 percent rate. So let's get real about that. Clean out the corporate welfare and, and leave the tax code a lot more competitive for the 21st century.


GUTHRIE: Governor, let me ask you. You have one entry on your resume that certainly distinguishes you from every other Republican in this race. That is you worked for the Obama administration. You were President Obama's ambassador to China.

HUNTSMAN: That's right.

GUTHRIE: You now have criticized him on health care, on Wall Street reform. You say he's been an utter failure on the economy. What does it say about you and your judgment that you worked for someone who, you think, has been a complete failure?

HUNTSMAN: Listen I worked for President Reagan, I worked for President Bush, I worked for President Bush. I believe if you love your country, you serve her. I stood up and served my country when my president asked. And you know what? I would do it again. That's a philosophy I take to my grave. But when you stand up and you embrace a bipartisan position, like U.S. ambassador to China, it doesn't mean you resign your world view. It doesn't mean you resign your party affiliation.

GUTHRIE: But you know, at one point, you-

HUNTSMAN: We've got some real problems in this country, they need to be talked about and they need to be debated.

GUTHRIE: Okay, but at one point you called President Obama "a remarkable leader." You were effusive about his leadership. At one point did you sour on President Obama and, and how long did you continue to work for him, after that point?

HUNTSMAN: Listen he - at the very beginning there was a lot of hope and optimism when this country began coming together after the 2008 election. I was raised to be a gracious person. I thought it was pretty remarkable that he appointed a Republican to his administration. I wrote him a handwritten note. That's what a lot of people do. But let's face it, the President has had two-and-a-half years and it's very clear to everybody that he has not been able to deliver on the one thing that the American people expect.

GUTHRIE: Governor-

HUNTSMAN: And that's expand and broaden and strengthen the economy and create jobs. That's the most important people - thing to people in this country, right now. And we've got to have a debate. We've got to talk about the issues, the big picture issues.

GUTHRIE: Well let's-

HUNTSMAN: Not the small ball but the big ball issues that will get us back in the game again.

GUTHRIE: Currently you are not running against Barack Obama. You are running against a handful of other Republican candidates. Let's talk about them. You've said the Republican field has zero substance, no good ideas. You've disagreed with your fellow Republicans about issues like raising the debt ceiling, about evolution, about climate change. And here's the verdict so far from Republican voters. The most recent poll from Quinnipiac has you dead last in the Republican primary. You know it kind of sounds funny to put it this way, but Governor I guess the question is: Are you sure you should be running in the Republican primary of 2011?

HUNTSMAN: I'm absolutely certain. If we were to take the numbers from 2008 and 2004 and extrapolate those to the finish line we would have had much different outcomes. Nobody is paying attention to the race. You know there are a few insiders are, at this point. But this race has a long way to go during the fall season. In the months ahead, I believe this country is gonna turn into common sense, problem solving reasoning that comes from people who have been governor. Someone who's been in the private sector. Someone who's lived overseas four times. Been an ambassador three times for his country. This country is crying out for real solutions.

GUTHRIE: Do you, do you think-

HUNTSMAN: We're not getting them.

GUTHRIE: Very quickly.

HUNTSMAN: We're getting drama but we're not getting solutions.

GUTHRIE: Do you-

HUNTSMAN: And that's the reason we stood up and put forward our jobs plan yesterday.

GUTHRIE: Do you think that Governor Perry or Michele Bachmann are too far right to win and beat President Obama?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, all I can tell you is that the people of this country, they want common sense problem solving solutions. They don't want politics at the extreme ends.

GUTHRIE: Alright.

HUNTSMAN: And what we're getting today is politics at the extreme ends and we can do better than that.

GUTHRIE: Alright Governor Jon Huntsman. Good to see you today. Thank you for being with us.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you, Savannah. 

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.