WASHINGTON (AP) — GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman says the U.S. is a "center-right" country politically and the public is "crying out for a sensible middle ground" — just what he says he offers.
The former Utah governor says his Republican rivals as well as President Barack Obama are on the political "fringes." Huntsman says Obama is too liberal and there are Republican candidates who are too far to the right and have "zero substance."
Huntsman, who's lagging in national polls, saved his harshest criticism in a television interview for two of the candidates who are at the top of the 2012 pack — Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Huntsman slammed Perry for expressing skepticism about manmade global warming and for criticizing the nation's central banker. "I think when you find yourself at an extreme end of the Republican Party, you make yourself unelectable," Huntsman said in interview, aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Huntsman also ridiculed Bachmann's claims that she could bring gasoline prices below $2 if elected president. "I just don't know what world that comment would come from. ... That is completely unrealistic. And, again, it's talking about things that, you know, may pander to a particular group or sound good at the time, but it just simply is not founded in reality."
Huntsman spoke optimistically about his chances in 2012, saying he would do well in early voting New Hampshire and South Carolina and "then we're going to bring it home in Florida."
"I'm confident we're getting there. But I'm even more confident that the message that we bring to this race, that of a center-right message for a center-right country that is looking for common-sense solutions and a leader who's actually been there and done that in the marketplace and can apply those same principles now to a nation that so desperately needs it," he said.
He said voters aren't yet paying close attention to the race. "I like exactly where we are. Stay tuned."