Saturday, November 22, 2008

Utah governor critical of GOP

Jon Huntsman, the Republican governor of the ruby-red state of Utah, stopped by Politico HQ this afternoon with some tough criticism of his own party.

Huntsman is in Washington this week in his role as chairman of the Western Governors' Association to promote the group’s bipartisan energy policy. Huntsman and the WGA’s vice-chairman, Montana governor Brian Schweitzer (D), are discussing their proposal with President-elect Obama's transition team tomorrow.

Huntsman has been one of the leading Republican voices on dealing with climate change, and he was blunt in criticizing elements of his party for ignoring the impact of global warming.

“If we’re going to survive as a party, we need to focus on the environment,” Huntsman said. “There’s a fundamental tone deafness with our party when it comes to the environment. ... The last place we can be as a party is be viewed as the anti-science party. That’s not a model for the future.”

Huntsman said that there’s some resistance in Utah from elements of the party base on his environmental views, but said Western conservatives also “feel deeply about the land and the legacy they’re leaving behind.”

“When you put it in words they understand like clean air, pristine lands, and pure water, they get it,” Huntsman said.

He also was critical of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and advocated for a more multilateral approach. He attributed the Republicans’ recent political struggles to the lack of an “organizing principle” to drive voters to the party — something the Cold War accomplished for decades.

And he argued the war on terror can’t fill that role.

“The war on terror can’t be the organizing principle of the Republican party,” he said.

Huntsman, who has shown an interest in national politics, said that the future of the Republican party will come from the governorships, but declined to promote any specific names. He punted when asked if he was interested in running for president in 2012, saying he was more interested in promoting ideas over names.

“New ideas will emerge, and then the names will follow,” Huntsman said.

On Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Huntsman only said that “she’ll be in the mix” in 2012, adding that she will have appeal to some social conservatives.

Huntsman was easily reelected as Utah’s governor this year, winning 78 percent of the vote in his heavily Republican state.

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