The Daily Gamecock

Jon Huntsman's wife visits USC campus

Says husband is no moderate

Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, denounced the media’s marginalization of her husband during a meeting with students in the Russell House late Tuesday afternoon.

The event, sponsored by the College Republicans, occurred mere days after Jon Huntsman suffered a bruising defeat in the Ames Straw Poll. Huntsman came in ninth out of 10 candidates with only 69 votes. Michele Bachmann, who won the much-analyzed poll, will speak to supporters in Columbia today. Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China and former governor of Utah, gave a USC commencement address in spring.

Mary Kaye Huntsman’s conversation Thursday centered on convincing listeners why her husband was still relevant in a primary race becoming even more dominated by Bachmann, Mitt Romney and newcomer Rick Perry. Mary Kaye Huntsman said her husband’s civility toward fellow Republican candidates and unwillingness to spout radical ideas caused the media to overlook him.

“You have a choice,” Mary Kaye Huntsman said. “Would you rather have a celebrity or a statesman running the country?”

This was Mary Kaye Huntsman’s most assertive moment during the meet and greet, other than a plea for attendees not to partake in motocross, an extreme sport her husband and sons enjoy but has caused them numerous injuries. Before she opened up the session to questions, she told attendees they could ask about anything except policy.

Unfortunately, the first question and several thereafter were on just that. But here and there daughter Liddy Huntsman, one of the Huntsmans’ seven children, interjected to help her mother answer. The two spent much time rebutting a possible reason why Jon Huntsman’s campaign is lagging: He is perceived as a moderate in a race where strict social and fiscal conservatism is in vogue.

“I want to clear it up,” Liddy Huntsman said. “I think he’s moderate on one view, which is civil unions, and I think if you look at his record he’s extremely conservative and fiscally conservative.”

Mary Kaye Huntsman continued her daughter’s notion, saying that her husband is mostly concerned with hospital visitation rights for gay partners.

“It has nothing to do with marriage; he believes in traditional marriage,” Mary Kaye Huntsman said. “I think the fact that he’s a consensus builder, people automatically think he’s a moderate.”

Jon Huntsman was the only Republican candidate to praise the agreement to raise the debt ceiling. Conservatives also criticize Jon Huntsman for supporting “cap and trade” and working as an ambassador in President Barack Obama’s administration. Mary Kaye Huntsman said her husband simply answered the call of his president, just like her two sons who serve in the U.S. Navy.

“He was Republican before he went to China, he’s Republican now and nothing has changed,” Mary Kaye Huntsman said.

But it was Mike Campbell, Jon Huntsman’s aide and son of late South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell, who was most blatantly trying to push Jon Huntsman’s reputation to the right. Less than two minutes into his introduction for Mary Kaye Huntsman, he had invoked Ronald Reagan. Later, he extolled Jon Huntsman’s private sector job creation, decried too much government interference in business, called Obama “the most unqualified president in his lifetime” and denounced journalists’ “condescending attitudes.”

All three speakers continually asserted that Americans owed Jon Huntsman another look.

“He’s the most undiscovered leader in America and probably the most undervalued stock,” Mary Kaye Huntsman said. “It will be very sad if America passes somebody like him up.”


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