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ABC "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" - Transcript

Interview

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HUNTSMAN: Well, Christiane, thank you for having me, first and foremost. I think with respect to last night, all I can say, with all due respect to your terrific network, was I was delighted to be here in New Hampshire having a town hall meeting. We have four town hall meetings today. We have a debate with Newt Gingrich on Monday. And this is a state that is incredibly important for us.

And on the debate stage last night, I believe that the most important issue of all confronting the American people wasn't even touched upon, and that is the deficit of trust that we have in the United States. In fact, it may have -- it played right into the trust deficit. That is, nobody trusts Congress anymore. We need term limits in Congress. We need to close the revolving door that allows members of Congress to move right on into the lobbying profession. No one has trust anymore toward the executive branch. No one trusts Wall Street, with banks that are too big to fail. So the -- I would argue that the issues that are most salient in our political dialogue today weren't even touched upon last night.

AMANPOUR: So then how do you explain the phenomenal rise of Newt Gingrich? You say people don't have trust, and yet he does seem to be speaking, at least to Republican voters, in a way that you aren't, for instance.

HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, there have been so many ups and downs in this race, I'm getting whiplashed, quite frankly. We've had six front-runners in the span of about six months. And all I can tell you, having spent a whole lot of time here in New Hampshire -- we have had 116 public events in this state -- is that the voters will begin to coalesce around a candidate about a week to 10 days out. The marketplace is still open. People are shopping. They are listening very, very carefully. And all I can say, Christiane, is the two messages that we're delivering to the people here on the ground, the economic deficit which is the cancer metastasizing in this country and one that is a national security problem, I would say, and the trust deficit are the two biggest issues we face today. And we're getting people showing up to our town hall meetings in numbers I never would have imagined. They're signing up afterwards, they're taking lawn signs home.

I feel very good about their trajectory here in this great state. And this is always the state that upends conventional wisdom. So let's not fall back onto conventional wisdom. That never holds true in the end.

AMANPOUR: All right, but people are trying to figure out how you're going to really break out, because you are at the moment at the bottom of the pack, despite the fact that some independents, for instance in New Hampshire call you the sanest one running. Our George Will has said that you deserve a searching second look from conservatives. Ross Douthat of the New York Times calls you the most electable conservative remaining in the race. And yet as I say, what you are offering doesn't seem to be resonating. It appears that the Newt Gingrich, sort of bombast and brash, in your face against Obama is what's resonating.

HUNTSMAN: Christiane, we're doing better in New Hampshire than half the people on that stage last night when you look at the recent polls. We're going nowhere but up. We started as a margin of error candidate. I'm no longer a margin of error candidate because our messages are working.

People want to know if they're going to have a president who's going to call for term limits for Congress. They want to know they're going to have a president who will take on banks that are too big to fail. And it doesn't matter if we fix taxes or create a more streamlined regulatory environment or move toward energy independence. If we're stuck with banks that are too big to fail, with this implied guarantee by the taxpayers, we're setting ourselves up for disaster.

So we've moved from zero to now double digits, and in the weeks ahead, I do believe we're going to move right up toward the top of the pack, understanding full well that people simply don't make decisions until days out, from in this case, January 10th.

I like our position. They want an honest, honorable, trustworthy person in this race. They want someone whose core they can trust going forward. We're putting ourselves forward as that person. And I like our position.

AMANPOUR: I just want to put up a graphic, because, again, talking about New Hampshire, you are back in fourth place there. So given how important New Hampshire is to you staying in the race, tell me honestly where you have to come in order to stay in the race?

HUNTSMAN: We have to beat market expectations, Christiane. And I have every expectation that we're going to beat market expectations.

AMANPOUR: Where is that, second, third? Where do you think you'd be?

HUNTSMAN: I'm not going to play the numbers game. I am not going to play the numbers game, but we're going to be right up toward the top. We have done nothing but climb in every poll since we entered this market, and our message is connecting with people. I can feel it on the ground. I have a very good visceral sense of where this campaign is going. And we're going to surprise and upend conventional wisdom, I can tell you that right now.

AMANPOUR: All right, let me ask you about where this campaign is going. I read to you a few comments from people before, including one who called you the sanest one still running. But it appears that you're reversing some of your own eminently sensible positions, for instance on climate change. You in August tweeted that "to be clear, I believe in evolution, and I trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." You have been tweeting about this sort of rightward swing, you've been jabbing at the base. And yet last week, you sort of rolled that bit back on climate change. You sort of said there isn't enough science. I mean, what are you doing?

HUNTSMAN: Well, Christiane, I'm not changing at all. I have said all along that I put my faith and trust in science. When you have 99 out 100 climate scientists, you have members of the National Academy of Sciences who have weighed in on a body of research on the subject matter, I say that's where I put my trust.

Yes, there might be one percent of scientists who still are questioning some of those assumptions, and that debate and discussion will continue. But as for me, let me make it crystal clear. I'm on the side of science in this debate. I don't know a whole lot of people on Capitol Hill who are physicists or climate scientists. I think this is a discussion that needs to be taken out of the political lane and kept in the science lane.

AMANPOUR: One more question, you have said that you will endorse and support whoever's the nominee. If it is Newt Gingrich, will he get your endorsement?

HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, I don't have to worry about that, because we're moving up in this great state of New Hampshire. We're going to be the nominee, and I don't have to worry about anything beyond that.

AMANPOUR: Jon Huntsman, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

HUNTSMAN: Thanks, Christiane.

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