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Huntsman Backs Away From Cap and Trade

Huntsman Backs Away From Cap and Trade

By Erin McPike - May 12, 2011

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has a handful of things to square for Republican voters as he prepares to seek the party's presidential nomination next year. His service for a Democratic president is one; his support for civil unions is another. But in his first interview since returning to the United States from China, where he was the U.S. ambassador for 20 months, he joined the GOP chorus and bagged his previous support for regional cap and trade.

A profile this week in Time magazine characterizes Huntsman as not yet ready to get into the weeds on issues where "he hasn't been fully briefed." The exception, however, is cap and trade, a policy that has become anathema to the Republican base. As governor, Huntsman supported a regional cap-and-trade system, as many of the GOP governors and former governors also interested in the nomination did. In the interview, however, he walked away from it.

From the story: " 'It hasn't worked,' he says now, ‘and our economy's in a different place than five years ago.' Until it recovers, he adds, ‘this isn't the moment' to keep trying."

Huntsman may not be particularly troubled by the change, though, because he is in good company in the GOP field: His fellow former Republican governors have done the same.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney similarly supported a regional cap-and-trade system in New England, but he backed away from it in his recent book, "No Apology: Believe in America." Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also has offered a mea culpa on the issue, which he volunteered again at last week's miniature Republican debate in South Carolina.

Then there's former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. RealClearPolitics broke the news in December that Huckabee had given full-throated support to the policy in 2007 and then quietly changed his position in 2009. He subsequently issued a statement denying he had ever supported it, only to be shown the video by the rest of the media.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, too, has some difficulty with the issue. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu told RealClearPolitics in March that he didn't see a pathway to the nomination for Gingrich because of his appearance with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an advertisement supporting a carbon tax. Gingrich's spokesman said he never backed such a tax.

How big of a topic could cap and trade possibly be in the intra-party presidential debates later this fall if each of the party's major players has run away from the issue, as if were an exploding Mount Vesuvius?

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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