OTR Interviews

Jon Huntsman Setting His Sights on New Hampshire

2012 candidate breaks down his campaign plan


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 27, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SHANNON BREAM: Right now, all eyes are on Iowa, but Governor Jon Huntsman is setting his sights on New Hampshire. The candidate says he is in it all the way in New Hampshire. So will that strategy give his campaign the boost it needs?

I spoke with the governor just a short time ago.


BREAM: Governor, thank you for joining us tonight. Great to have you with us.

JON HUNTSMAN (R-UT), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Honored to be with you. Thank you.

BREAM: I got to ask you about Iowa. It's a week away. It's where most people are focused right now. Earlier on, you said it wasn't the place for you, you weren't going to spend a lot of time there. Any regrets at this point?

HUNTSMAN: No regrets at all. Again, nothing against the good voters in Iowa, but I believe that the Iowa caucus will be soon forgotten after a day or two, and then the bright light will be on New Hampshire, which is the first primary state. And as such, they're getting all kinds of people turning out to vote. And I think because of that, it will establish a candidate or two or three, perhaps, as the most electable candidates.

So we're in it all the way in New Hampshire. And they're responding well to our message. They care about the two deficits that this country has, one economic and one trust. We're driving it home in ways where the people on the ground are hearing it out. We've done 128 public events, more than anyone else by far.

And I think in the end, we're going to prove correct the idea that grass roots politics still matters. It isn't just by Twitter FaceBook and everything else. You've got to be there. You've got to shake hands. But more importantly, you've got to have a message that resonates.

And our message is resonating and it's about nailing the economic deficit. You know, when you get to 70, 80 percent debt-to-GDP, the next generation is shipwrecked. We've got to fix that. And two, we have a trust deficit in this country, and that is people no longer trust their institutions of power. They don't trust Congress. They don't trust the executive branch. They don't trust Wall Street with banks that are too big to fail.

So we're going to keep talking about term limits for Congress. We're going to keep talking about closing that revolving door that allows members of Congress to file right on out and become lobbyists. I mean, we wonder why there is so little trust and so much cynicism directed toward these institutions of power. We've got crony capitalism alive and well on Capitol Hill. And I say enough's enough. We're going to do something about that.

BREAM: You've been taking that message across the state multiple times in New Hampshire. How well do you need to finish there to be viable beyond New Hampshire?

HUNTSMAN: We need to beat market expectations. And the marketplace always assigns you some expectation as if you were a stock. And we have to do better than that. And I'm going to tell you we're going to do better than that. We've come from zero and we've just overtaken Ron Paul for third place in a couple of the last polls.

New Hampshire loves an underdog. They don't like to be told for whom to vote in the Granite state. They love an underdog and they want an underdog who moreover is getting there by working hard on the ground. And that's exactly what we're doing. So we'll be back in New Hampshire tomorrow and we'll be working while everybody is focused on Iowa. We'll have the state to ourselves several days, and then the spotlight will be on probably long about the 4th of January.

BREAM: OK, because of your background, I'd like to ask you about some issues going on internationally. I want to ask you about the Treasury Department's decision not to list China as a currency manipulator. What do you think of that decision?

HUNTSMAN: Well, they've appreciated their currency probably just under 5 percent this year. They're slowly appreciating their currency. It's never going to be at the speed that we want or that Congress wants. And it is being artificially manipulated. There's no doubt about that.

You also have to consider it in the context of every other issue that is playing out with China. North Korea -- we're in deep talks with the Chinese right now on North Korea. Iran -- you want to get more sanctions layered on Iran in the U.N. Security Council, you got to have their cooperation. Pakistan -- a hugely complex and sensitive relationship. You've got to have China's cooperation or at least be in dialogue with them on regional security.

So when you approach all of these issues, they're not just standalone issues. They relate to all of the others that are part of the U.S.-China relationship, and you have to approach it as such.

But the Only remedy longer term in terms of getting them to rebalance their currency is to ensure that their rising entrepreneurial class, which is a significant force now in Chinese politics, continues to put pressure on the government because they want a currency that is recognized internationally. They want a marketplace that is more open and viable. They want protection of intellectual property rights.

I remember living in Taiwan back in the late 1980s, where they had range of problems very similar to what you find in China these days. And the entrepreneurial class rose up when they were strong enough and mature enough, and the government listened to them like no one else.

And so I think the years ahead could be important and instructive years in terms of China becoming more compliant in terms of market obligations, a currency that is more in balance with the marketplace. Why? Because they have to. They have no choice. They're going from export marketplace to a consumer marketplace where a properly valued currency is going to be in their interests, and they know it. They're holding back because they look at the world and they say, It's a little uncertain. We wonder how fast we should get this done. And they're wrong in doing that and we should push them at every opportunity.

BREAM: You mention a lot of very complicated relationships that stem off of our relationship with China. You mention North Korea, which, of course, right now is in a time of great transition. What do you expect going forward in the next few months?

HUNTSMAN: Kim Jong Un, who is the 20-something -- now, tomorrow, at least, we'll see him as chairman of the funeral committee, and if you're chairman of the funeral committee, it means you're the top dog in the country. But very little is known about him. And he'll have some work ahead in the weeks and months to come in solidifying his power base.

The transition started about a year-and-a-half ago, but Kim Jong Il no longer is around. His dad no longer is around, which means he's standing on his own. And he's got to make sure that with the party elite and with the central military commission that he's got alliances that he can rely on. And that's probably -- that probably hasn't been wrapped up fully.

So the weeks ahead will be a consolidation of power for him. And I see -- I don't see a good outcome here. You know, either you have the status quo prevail, where, you know, he ends up consolidating power and you still have the most reckless, dangerous dictatorship on the face of the earth. That's not a good outcome. Or you have something less good, and that would be a failed nation state in the event that he doesn't consolidate power and hue has runs (ph) on him by other factions of either the military or the party.

You have a collapse of the nation state. You have hundreds -- you know, you've got literally millions of people who would flow into China over the Yalu River, putting enormous pressure on China's economy. You'd have a problem with loose nuclear weapons, which would be an international crisis.

And you'd have a large chunk of the international marketplace, northeast Asia, which combined is about 20 percent of the world's GDP, when you look at Japan and Taiwan and part of China, part of Russia and South Korea -- a very important market for the United States. Our exports go there. We create jobs from those exports. We invest. They invest in us.

When you've got a reckless regime that is lobbing missiles, you know, into the Yellow Sea, as North Korea does from time to time, as I think they will continue to do, it stops commerce. And when commerce is impeded in such an important chokepoint economically, that plays right back to our own economy and it hurts us because we can't get our products through.

So important for the United States is to maintain a dialogue with our allies, South Korea and Japan -- there should be no blue sky between what we are doing -- and to maintain a deep dialogue with Russia and China because they have interests, as well. And they all speak to security. We want security on the peninsula. We want trade to prevail. And number two, we want to make sure that there are no loose nuclear weapons that could be very destabilizing in this world.

BREAM: Absolutely. Governor, thank you for your time. We'll see you in New Hampshire.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you. Great to be with you.


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