Huntsman launches PAC to ‘road test’ ideas, not ruling out 2016 bid

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter

One-time Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman is back on the political scene, launching a PAC that will help fellow Republicans and allow the former Utah governor to keep his toe in the presidential pond.

Huntsman insists that “it’s way too premature” to ask if he will make another go at the White House, but he does not rule it out.

However, Huntsman, whose 2012 bid for the GOP presidential nomination gained no traction, is realistic.

“If the marketplace isn’t there for your ideas, then it would be a huge waste of time to begin walking down that path” toward a presidential run, Huntsman told The Daily Caller in a phone interview Thursday.

“I’ve been there before, and I don’t want to do it again,” he said of such a fruitless bid.

The PAC will give him the vehicle to figure out if American voters find enough “resonance” in his ideas to send the former ambassador to Singapore and China down that path.

Red Rock PAC, named for “the beautiful red rock formations in Utah,” will let Huntsman travel the country and stay involved in politics over the next three years, as other potential presidential hopefuls make their pilgrimages to Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“If you want to stay meaningfully engaged in the big issues of the day, a PAC is helpful,” Huntsman told TheDC. “It allows you to raise a little money, to get around to road test ideas, ultimately to support candidates who might be like minded.”

The PAC will lend its support to candidates who “are focused on problem solving and maximizing individual liberty,” and who want to solve problems rather than just scream and yell at people on the other side of the aisle.

No such candidates immediately sprung to Huntsman’s mind, but he was optimistic.

“I sense there will be a good number of them,” he said, adding that he felt the “political marketplace” was going to turn in favor of such candidates, and “move away from extreme partisan politics” who engage in “finger pointing, acrimony and name calling.”

The PAC will only support Republicans because, Huntsman says, “I’m interested first and foremost in helping competitiveness of the Republican Party.”

The future of his party, which struggled, by all accounts, in the 2012 elections, is something that Huntsman believes will “depend less on personalities, and a whole lot more on the substance of what we stand for.”

“We’ve been unsuccessful the last two go-arounds because we haven’t inspired Americans to come out and vote for us,” Huntsman said, noting that Republicans had “lost key demographics.”

Huntsman dismissed the way the Republican National Committee is going about dealing with that problem.

“It’s not like we need autopsy reports and to do a lot of navel gazing, we simply need to reflect on where we have been successful,” he said.

Huntsman said Republicans need to look back on what the party has stood for when it has been successful. He referenced President Ronald Reagan and called for “big ideas, courageous vision, and an inclusive big tent approach.” He said the party needed to “do things that would suggest that we’re willing to rebuild an opportunity ladder.”

Key factors would be tax reform, immigration reform, education reform, and energy reform. Immigration reform, in particular, he said, was going to be crucial.

“We need to begin seeing it more as an economic opportunity as opposed to a security play,” he said, saying it should be about “enticing and attracting brainpower to our country,” something he said “seems to be part of our secret sauce to success.”

Additionally, he said, “there’s a healthy dose of reform needed of our institutions, and no Republican message is going to be complete unless we’re willing to talk about the really tough issues like financial institution reform, banks that are too big to fail … how we finance campaigns, the system to me is broken.”

He added that he felt the way redistricting was done so that so many seats were easy wins for one party or another was “not conducive to a healthy democracy, and Republicans should be leading the charge.”

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