Huntsman in pulpit: 2012 hopeful spotlights underdog status at C of C

Former Utah Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman talks Wednesday to about 200 gathered at the College of Charleston.

Robert Behre

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman told about 200 people inside the College of Charleston's Randolph Hall that if elected, he would focus on restoring America's manufacturing and its place on the world stage.

Afterward, Huntsman said he didn't have all the details regarding women's claims of inappropriate treatment from his GOP rival Herman Cain, "and it would be in his interest to get them out in total as quickly and as comprehensively as possible."

Unlike Huntsman, Cain is one of several Republican candidates who have topped the polls in the run-up to the party's 2012 primaries and caucuses, but Huntsman said he is happy with the role of underdog.

He noted he soon will hold his 100th campaign event in New Hampshire, and he hopes an impressive showing there on Jan. 10 will send him South with new momentum when South Carolina Republicans go to the polls 11 days later.

The second candidate in the C of C's Bully Pulpit series, Huntsman said his No. 1 goal would be to rebuild U.S. manufacturing muscle, primarily by focusing on tax reform, improving the regulatory environment and pushing for energy independence.

He said his next overarching goal would be to restore the nation's role in the world, and he said the country no longer needs to work on nation-building in Afghanistan, nor does it need 50,000 troops in Germany. "The Russians aren't coming any more, folks," he said.

In response to a question, Huntsman said he favored civil unions for gay couples but also supports traditional marriage.

Lawrence McMahon of West Ashley, a Vietnam vet, asked Huntsman about his plans for pulling out troops, and Huntsman replied by talking about the accomplishments in Afghanistan and how Iran's emerging nuclear arsenal will become the transcendent foreign policy issue.

McMahon later said that while he likes Huntsman's economic plan, he didn't like how his question was answered. "I felt his address was a downer," he added.

Grace Evelyn, a College of Charleston senior, said she attended the talk to get material for a writing assignment, adding that many students who packed the hall were there to get extra credit for class.

But Huntsman did greet fans, such as Alison Guerriere of Mount Pleasant, who said she admires his economic policy -- praised by the Wall Street Journal -- and his foreign policy expertise.

"I also think he's the kind of person who can unite the different parties in office and get things done," she said.