Jon Huntsman would be willing to run for vice president as Michele Bachmann's running mate if he doesn't win the Republican presidential nomination, he said Monday.
Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, told Piers Morgan in a CNN interview that he had never turned down a request to serve his country. Every time I've been asked to serve, over different administrations, from Reagan to the two Bushes to President Obama, I have the same answer, and that is if you love this country, you serve her, he said. If you're in a position to better the country, to bring whatever background you have to bear, whatever experiences to use in fine-tuning our future, I'll be the first person to sign up, absolutely.
Huntsman does indeed have a track record of working with politicians of various ideological stripes. He was a staff assistant to Ronald Reagan, deputy assistant secretary of commerce and U.S. ambassador to Singapore under George H.W. Bush, deputy U.S. trade representative under George W. Bush and U.S. ambassador to China under Barack Obama. No other candidate in the race has held such high-level positions within both Republican and Democratic administrations, and Huntsman has shown on many occasions that he is willing to work productively even with politicians with whom he disagrees. Given his track record, it is not entirely surprising that he would be willing to work with the extremely conservative Bachmann.
But all the same, Huntsman and Bachmann may have the most divergent platforms of any two Republican primary candidates. Bachmann is arguably the most conservative candidate in the race, rivaled only by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, while Huntsman is seen as one of the most moderate.
Moreover, Huntsman has not pulled any punches when it comes to Bachmann. On Sunday, for example, he slammed Bachmann's statement that as president, she would lower gas prices to below $2 a gallon.
I just don't know what world that comment would come from, you know? We live in the real world, he told an ABC interviewer. 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. He also indicated that he would not trust Bachmann to oversee the economy as president, criticizing her opposition to raising the federal debt limit and her assertion that the consequences of the U.S. defaulting on its debt would not be severe.
But assuming Huntsman is serious about accepting the vice-president slot on a Bachmann ticket, and if Bachmann wins the nomination -- which is far from certain, as she faces steep competition from Perry and Mitt Romney -- other questions remain.
The first is whether Bachmann would choose Huntsman as her running mate. While not inconceivable, this seems highly unlikely, given Bachmann's stated commitment to strongly conservative policies and her track record of avoiding compromise, particularly in the debt-ceiling debate. If she did in fact pick Huntsman, it would probably be in the hopes that having a center-right candidate on her ticket would extend her voter base beyond the Tea Party and others on the far right. But on the other hand, such a strategy would risk alienating both groups, and Bachmann surely knows that.
Huntsman is probably hoping to gain support by casting himself as the candidate most willing to work with others, regardless of ideology. But for better or for worse, with his poll numbers stuck in the low single digits, the prospect of a Bachmann-Huntsman ticket seems very remote.