Jon Huntsman photo

Press Release - Mitt 'Leading From Behind' Romney

October 26, 2011

Romney's hesitance is perhaps rooted in the other ballot measure for which Buckeye Republicans were phoning voters: an initiative to bar local, state and federal government from adopting a health coverage mandate for individuals or employers.

Jon Huntsman tallied in a Monday appearance on ABC the instances in which Mitt Romney has dodged salient policy matters -- the debt ceiling debate, Libya, Afghanistan and now Ohio's bid at public union reform -- and found the Bay Stater "leading from behind." (Huntsman endorsed the compromise debt accord, shortly after it was struck by Congress, as the lone legislative solution to avert an unprecedented default on the federal government's obligations; expressed opposition from the outset to nation-building efforts in the tribal nations of Afghanistan and Libya; and endorsed Ohio Governor John Kasich's public sector union reforms.)

"It looks a little bit like his position on the debt ceiling, a little bit like his position on Libya," Huntsman told the "Top Line" crew of Romney's refusal to state his position yesterday on a high-profile public union reform referendum.

While visiting on Tuesday a Cincinnati phone banking center, Romney was pressed by CNN to indicate his position on the ballot initiative, which is endorsed by the state's Republican Governor. Romney rebuffed, telling reporters he was "not speaking about the particular ballot issues."

Romney's hesitance is perhaps rooted in the other ballot measure for which Buckeye Republicans were phoning voters: an initiative to bar local, state and federal government from adopting a health coverage mandate for individuals or employers.

On the merits of the second measure, which Politico speculated motivated Romney's silence, Huntsman expressed a strong affinity with the state GOP's efforts to block an individual mandate -- like the one Romney championed in Massachusetts.

"We do have an example of the individual mandate in Massachusetts, and what have we seen? We've seen costs on average go up about 2,500 bucks for the average family, we've seen quality go down, we've seen emergency room visits go up. And federally we've seen at least one circuit court, the 11th Circuit Court, basically say, likely unconstitutional."

But whatever the reason for Romney's dodge, Huntsman warned, it fits a troubling pattern for any White House suitor.

"This is a time when, if you are going to president of the United States, you show a little presidential leadership," he said. "That's by taking a position and leading out -- sometimes there is a risk associated with taking a position, but that's part of leadership."

Pronounced silence has become something of a feature of the Romney campaign, evidenced by this blast from the not-so-distant past over the frenzied debate to boost the nation's credit limit:

Apart from ambiguous applause for Speaker John Boehner's since-tabled proposal, the Bay Stater's buttoned lip was so conspicuous that his punim began appearing on milk cartons. But he broke his extended silence yesterday, after a compromise framework had been already established and the entirety of the primary field had evaluated it, to offer this 11th hour pronouncement: You're doing it wrong. ("I personally cannot support this deal," Romney said in a Monday statement.)

Of course, Romney offered at no juncture guidance to Congressional negotiators as they hashed out the contentious, dueling proposals to raise the nation's debt ceiling. But he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!

The end to Romney's absenteeism -- which aides told the Huffington Post yesterday was a measure of caution to "avoid commenting before the contours of a deal became clear" -- came only after Jon Huntsman, who first backed the Boehner bill and later the new compromise plan, began pressing his fellow former governor to reveal his position. ("If you're not willing to lead out during the time of this debt ceiling debate, then that should raise some questions about when you are, in fact, going to take a position and lead out," Huntsman told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Friday.)

Gov. Huntsman echoed that criticism yesterday in New Hampshire, telling a press gaggle that Romney's leadership deferred belies the pressing choices that await the next president. "It's easy to take a political position later on," Huntsman said. "It's tough to take a position early on, which is the real world," adding that "leaders step up."

Jon Huntsman, Press Release - Mitt 'Leading From Behind' Romney Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/298845

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