How Obama Will Handle Huntsman as the GOP Candidate

Posted on June 20, 2011

On State of the Union with Candy Crowley this past Sunday, David Axelrod, formerly of the White House, now in Chicago heading up Obama’s re-election campaign cut potential GOP  Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Obama’s former Ambassador to China, off at the knees.  He more or less branded him as politician who sees an opportunity and has taken it, leaving his principles in the wake of his departure.

CROWLEY: One of [the GOP’s potential Presidential candidates], Jon Huntsman, is getting in next week. Size him up for me?

AXELROD: Well, I know him because he was President Obama’s ambassador to China. I got to meet him when we were in Shanghai. I think he’s a very bright, fluent person.

It was a little surprising to me because when we were in Shanghai we got a chance to talk. And he was very effusive, this was in the fall of 2009, about what the president was doing. He was encouraging on health care, he was encouraging on a whole range of issues. He was a little quizzical about what he was going on in his own party. And you got the strong sense that he was going to wait until 2016 for the storm to blow over.

And obviously circumstances change.

So I was surprised when he emerged as a candidate. But certainly I take him seriously.

CROWLEY: You know, it’s funny because I did a — I interviewed him for last Sunday’s show, and he said — I asked him if he thought, as does Mitt Romney, that President Obama has had a failed presidency. And he said yes, he did, particularly on the economy.

AXELROD: Well, that is in conflict with what he communicated to us in 2009. And if he had suggestions on the economy, he had an excellent opportunity to suggest them then when we were all together in China.

I think what has changed is not his view of the economy, but his view of his own chances to perhaps win the nomination.

I understand that’s politics. He’s a politician. And he sees an opportunity. But it is — it’s a stark contrast to what he said when he wasn’t on your program.

CROWLEY: Sounds like you’re a little ticked off at him.

AXELROD: No. Listen, I’ve been around, as George Bush used to say, this isn’t my first rodeo. So, you know, I think that anybody who wants to get in the pool should jump in the pool.

But Axelrod added these curious remarks that echo with 3 years of Obama speeches with teleprompter:

And I believe in the process. I believe you get tested in this process, your character gets tested as well as your ability to read a script or a speech, and so he and all the candidates will be tested.

And ultimately I’m very confident about the outcome.[CNN Transcript]

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