SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Republican primary voters from coast to coast have a big decision to make in coming weeks and months -- they must decide who they support for the GOP nomination. Now, although Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are currently on top, some conservatives are beginning to look in the direction of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
Now columnist George Will recently praised some of Huntsman conservative credentials. He argued that Huntsman supports Paul Ryan's proposed budget plan. He would privatize Fannie and Freddie, eliminate capital gains tax. He opposes farm subsidies, and he has called No Child Left Behind a disaster.
But not everyone is convinced. One man who remains unimpressed with the governor is Donald Trump. And during my interview with the always outspoken entrepreneur yesterday, I asked him to talk about why some candidates like Huntsman and Ron Paul are not participating in his upcoming Iowa debate. Take a look.
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DONALD TRUMP, CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Ron Paul has zero chance, zero, of getting elected or getting the nomination. He will do OK in Iowa and after Iowa he will fade into oblivion. So, Ron Paul, you know, frankly that some of these people aren't there, Huntsman is another one. He called my office, I don't know if you know this, wanted a meeting. I didn't give it to him. Maybe I should have. I didn't give it to him. But he wanted to come up and see me. And then I see him in a debate saying, unlike you people, I didn't go and see Donald Trump. So, he's a Mormon, so I'm sure he wouldn't lie about it. But the fact is that, all these people, I mean, the two people that we are talking about, I'm glad they aren't going to be there because then I can sort of focus on people that really have a chance of winning.
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HANNITY: And earlier today, Mitt Romney announced that he would not attend the Trump-moderated debate either.
Joining me now from Washington to respond to that much more, former Utah governor, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.
Governor, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.
FORMER GOV. JON HUNTSMAN, R-UTAH: Sean, it's an honor to be with you. Thank you.
HANNITY: All right. Did you asked for meetings with Trump?
HUNTSMAN: I called Trump after he dropped out of the race, like I did Tim Pawlenty, just to wish him well. No way I did I want to meet him, no way I did I want his support. I think his infusing himself into the dialogue really dumbs down and makes less consequential the very important issues that we must be discussing to get this country back on its feet again. These are serious issues Sean. This isn't about ratings for Donald Trump, this is about jobs for the American people. This is about who can go on and beat Barack Obama. This is about securing our place in the world, and dealing with the two biggest deficits that we face, one is an economic deficit and the other is a trust deficit.
HANNITY: Wait, let me stop. Yes. I read Donald Trump's book. It's a serious book about how to make America tougher and stronger. I think he's got a lot of good proposals in that book. I'm not sure why exactly you say he dumbs it down. He's somebody that has been very successful. Why are you insulting him?
HUNTSMAN: There's no doubt about that. He's a successful man. He might want to run as an independent. I say when you start moving into politics as entertainment, which is exactly what this is, and when you put on a show and you say that afterwards you might then pick your favorite contender, this becomes more politics as entertainment as opposed to politics as part of a serious dialogue that this country has been waiting for.
And I say we need to get back to the issues, we need to get back to the kind of discussion, Sean, that I'm going to be having with Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire in just a few short days, where we are going to have a run-on conversation about national security policy and defense policy in ways that I think will really enlighten the American people.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this. Look, here are the latest poll numbers. Gingrich at 37 -- I'm talking about the latest Gallup poll. Romney is at 22. Ron Paul is at eight. And you have one percent of the vote. Here's my question to you. Why wouldn't you want every opportunity -- and I think one of the problems you faced from the beginning is you are unknown to the American people. Why not take advantage of every opportunity, whether or not you are going to have a chance to be asked questions and answer them. National TV exposure, why not just take advantage of the opportunity and free airtime and get your point of view out instead of, you know, making a big deal over who is asking the questions. I'm not particularly impressed with a lot of the so-called moderators of the debates heretofore. Except for Fox.
HUNTSMAN: I think there ought to be a little bit of dignity associated with the run for the presidency of the United States. I think the presidency of the United States, Sean, goes beyond a reality show kind of format. And listen, people are coming around and taking a good look at me, maybe for the first time, and they are saying that I am a consistent conservative. They might not have seen that the first go around, they might have waved this off because we had crossed the partisan lines to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. But they are coming around Sean, to see that I have been consistently pro-life, consistently pro-second amendment, pro-growth, I delivered the largest tax cut in the history of my state. Health care reform without a mandate, the second voucher bill, I support the Ryan plan, the list goes on and on.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this.
HUNTSMAN: It's therefore no surprise that we are moving up in New Hampshire which is the state that we are seriously competing.
HANNITY: All right. So, let me ask you this. You were appointed by Barack Obama as ambassador to China. And now, if you won the nomination, you would run against Barack Obama. Do you regret having served the administration under him? Do you think his policies, his foreign policy has been good with China?
HUNTSMAN: Sean, when you are asked to serve your country during a time of war, during a time of economic hardship, when you have something you can bring to the table to make your country better and stronger, I say it would be unpatriotic of me not to step up and serve. I have always believed in putting my country first.
HANNITY: No, I got that. But for example, if Barack Obama -- which would never happen, I mean, everyone would acknowledge this -- but I couldn't serve under him. I have such a deep philosophical divide on every major issue, we see things differently. I'm not questioning if he's a great American. Has nothing to do with that. We see life differently. I would have a hard time working for him. How do you go from working for him and then competing against him? You know, for example, do you find that yourself in agreement with many things with Barack Obama?
HUNTSMAN: Listen, I found myself serving my country in a very sensitive national security foreign policy post. I was a conservative governor before. I am a consistent conservative candidate now. Because you step up and serve your country, it doesn't mean you resign your political affiliation, it doesn't mean you change your world view. You simply say that during a time when maybe we ought to be putting our country first and foremost, you are willing to step up and do a position that I was qualified for. I've spent 30 years of my life trying to crack the code on China, I've lived in Asia four times, I speak Chinese, I've served as ambassador three times. And I say, if you believe in that kind of service, if you have two boys in the military, as I do, we tend to put country first.
HANNITY: Let me -- I'm not questioning your patriotism.
HUNTSMAN: You stand up and serve.
HANNITY: First, look at the unequal trade balance between the U.S. and China. As ambassador, do you think we could have done more, you could have done more, Obama could have done more to stop that imbalance and does it concern you?
HUNTSMAN: The trade imbalance is going to begin to address itself when China's currency problem begins to be addressed and that is driven, first and foremost by their own entrepreneurs domestically. Because their own entrepreneurs within China, they want China to become more of a consumption based model, and that's exactly what they're headed. They want to be able to sell their own products domestically where they can't today.
So, I say when they begin to re-balance their economy toward it more a consumption-based model, we get more export opportunities, which is more jobs created here in the United States. That's what our future looks like, and I say, that expands our economic opportunity, and I'm in favor of that. And I did everything I could to help move that along and I will continue to.
HANNITY: All right. I hope you are ready for the incoming fire from Trump. I don't think he's going to sit back and take these comments lightly tonight.
HUNTSMAN: Hey, that's OK, Sean. We're ready for it.
HANNITY: You're going to need your three daughters to come up with a song because Trump's going to fire back hard. There's my prediction.
HUNTSMAN: Thank you, Sean. I appreciate it.
HANNITY: All right. Good to see you. Thank you, Governor.