OTR Interviews

Do or Die for Huntsman in New Hampshire?

GOP presidential contender Jon Huntsman remains optimistic about showing in New Hampshire primary


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 9, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Seventy-two days here in New Hampshire, 170 campaign events. Governor Jon Huntsman is said by many to be putting it all on the line in the nation's first primary. Now, the polls open in just over 90 minutes, and the results will be critical to his future. And we spoke with Governor Huntsman a short time ago.


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir.

JON HUNTSMAN, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Greta, it's a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I see you brought some friends.


HUNTSMAN: Even a goat outside!

VAN SUSTEREN: Even a goat.

HUNTSMAN: In case you didn't see it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Actually, I did see the goat. I got my picture taken with the goat. I do ....

HUNTSMAN: I actually got the goat's endorsement. That took a lot of work, just like getting the endorsement of all the people here in New Hampshire. It's hard work.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you -- I saw you on Sunday. You came out of the gate quite firing mad, I thought, at the debate. Am I wrong?

HUNTSMAN: Well, you know...

VAN SUSTEREN: You're tougher.

HUNTSMAN: You speak from your heart and soul, and that's what people want to hear. You've got to be honest and sincere in terms of the way you want this country to go. We love this country. You want to see a better tomorrow. What we're ready to hand down to the next generation is totally unacceptable. Suffer from an economic deficit that's eating us alive. And we have a trust deficit in this country. The people no longer trust their institutions of power, and we must do something about that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Am I wrong that you were more fired up on Sunday?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, the closer you get to election day, the more fired up you get. We've been planting our flags in all 10 counties in this state. We've done 170 town hall meetings and house parties. We have worked it at the grass roots level like nobody else.

So the closer you get to election day, Greta, I got to say, the more fired up you get because you believe in your message and you believe that as you approach the finish line, you might actually surprise a whole lot of people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, I know you want to win. Everybody wants to win. If I went to the Olympics, I'd want the gold medal, but I'd be profoundly happy with a silver or bronze. I'm curious, in terms of you, what do you consider a win besides first place? Second or -- third place ever be a win for you?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let's just say we have to beat market expectations. You're going to set the market expectations for me. And as we rise in the polls over the next few hours, your expectations are going to get higher and higher.

We've got to clear that hurdle that you set for us. And if I can clear that hurdle come tomorrow night, I'm going to walk out of this state -- in fact, I'm going to move with a head of steam out of this state a very happy man because that means that we will have established that point of electability.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything that stops you dead here tomorrow and doesn't have you going on?

HUNTSMAN: Well, obviously, a poor finish. But we're not going to have a poor finish. We've worked it too hard. We've been too honest and sincere with the voters of New Hampshire. We've picked up a head of steam already. I mean, I feel the energy on the ground out there. It's very real and it's very palpable.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right (INAUDIBLE) compare you to the guy who's leading the polls, and Governor Romney right now is leading the polls here. Today, you seized upon the fact that he said something about firing people. You seized upon that!

HUNTSMAN: Well, if you're talking about your enjoyment in firing people, if you're talking about pink slips during a time when we need to be talking about jobs and expanded economic opportunity for people, that would seem to be problematic. But just look at the political dimension. When you're up against the Chicago political machine that's going to have a billion dollars to spend on goofy statements like that -- give me a break. That's going to make electing a Republican very difficult.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the biggest difference -- if someone says -- lines you up next to Governor Romney -- you're both former governors -- what is the biggest difference between the two of you if someone's trying to decide whether to vote for you or Governor Romney?

HUNTSMAN: One word, trust. I have a core that doesn't change. I have been the same from start to finish. People might not always agree with what I've done, but I have a consistent conservative record. I speak from my heart. I do what I think is right for this country and I'm not going to bury it. And I think that trust, the issue of trust is going to be a central theme in this election cycle.

VAN SUSTEREN: You think he's not trustworthy?

HUNTSMAN: I don't think he's made the case to the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: But do you think he's not trustworthy?

HUNTSMAN: He hasn't made the case to the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has he made it to you?

HUNTSMAN: Not convincingly. He's a good father. He's a good family man. I respect him. He's a decent person. But has not made -- he has not made an effective case for -- for trust in his campaign.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the big problems affecting us right now is Iran, and there's a big question of exactly where they are in nuclear weapons development. And we always have problems getting good intelligence. We've had intelligence failures before. How would you know or what would you change about our intelligence gathering so that we have the right information so the right decisions can be made? Is there anything you'd do differently than we're doing right now or prior administrations?

HUNTSMAN: I would take out the DNI. I think the DNI as a structure is an overall holding company for our intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities, is terribly bureaucratic, is weighted down with red tape. I want to get back to the days where we had a central intelligence agency. We've got too many players. We're not sharing enough. And I believe when you're confused at the gathering level, much less the analytical level, that you're not going to get the kind of good information you need to make critically important decisions, where we send our men and women into harm's way.

That's something the president has to do, and I want to make sure when I have to make those decisions that we have absolutely the best tactical intelligence, analyzed intelligence and analytical basis on which to make those decisions.

VAN SUSTEREN: So is it fun to look out and see all these fans?

HUNTSMAN: I can't even believe it.


HUNTSMAN: I can't even believe it, Greta! you know, we came in here the very first time many months ago...

SUPPORTERS: Huntsman! Huntsman! Huntsman!

HUNTSMAN: ... and we have -- (INAUDIBLE) and now this. It's incredible. It's absolutely incredible!

VAN SUSTEREN: Abraham Lincoln once spoke here.

HUNTSMAN: I'm inspired. I feel his presence every time I'm in this building.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you, and good luck tomorrow, sir. Thank you.

HUNTSMAN: Nice to see you. Thank you.