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Politics

Huntsman believes voters look to him as ‘realist’

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman addresses the New England College Convention during a campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire January 6, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Jon Huntsman addressed the New England College Convention in Concord, N.H., today.

CONCORD, N.H. – Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said today that he believes voters will look to him, as a “realist,” when they cast their ballot, rather than to the candidates who have gotten more attention.

“If you don’t light your hair on fire, you don’t sign those silly pledges, you don’t have all those oops moments, you’re not going to get as much airtime, and people won’t talk about you as much,” Huntsman told attendees at the Center for Civic Engagement at New England College’s College Convention. “[Voters] will enjoy watching the circus play out and all of the political theater until they have to stare down the ballot box.”

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At that point, Huntsman said, he believes voters will look for someone who has the temperament and vision to be president. “We have to draw from ideas that are doable and not so outlandishly stupid that they create a lot of political infighting, and never in 1,000 years are going to get done,” he said.

Huntsman voiced a similar sentiment when asked by a reporter whether he believes the Republican field is too right-wing. “We’ve got a lot of voters out there who hunger not for political theatrics, but for real ideas, real solutions. Not sound bites, not red meat, but real solutions and ideas,” Huntsman said.

College Convention is a gathering of college students from around the country, which has featured speeches by several presidential candidates. Huntsman spoke to around 125 people – a slightly smaller crowd than the one that gathered to hear former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speak yesterday. Huntsman has two events scheduled this evening in northern New Hampshire – a house party in Randolph and a Chamber of Commerce dinner in Bretton Woods.

The Boston Globe yesterday endorsed Huntsman, who is staking his campaign on a strong showing in New Hampshire, but remains in fifth place, according to a new Suffolk University tracking poll. Huntsman touted the Globe endorsement when speaking to the students. Asked by a reporter whether he is concerned that the Globe has a liberal reputation, Huntsman said, “Any endorsement by a respected outlet like the Boston Globe is a big deal.” Huntsman said he welcomes supporters of all parties. “I say you need them all in order to win. You need them all in order to be successful.”

Huntsman took several questions from the audience. Asked how he would regulate corporations if he opposes the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, Huntsman called Dodd-Frank “overreach.” He said it makes it difficult for businesses to get bank loans and allows for banks that are “too big to fail.”

On health care, he talked about the need to have transparency in health care costs, to eliminate restrictions on the sale of health insurance across state lines, and to find ways to deliver end of life care in homes, not hospitals. When a voter applauded him for being “the only Republican candidate…who actually believes in science,” Huntsman did not discuss climate change – the main area where he differs from his Republican opponents in his belief in science – but instead talked about the need to achieve energy independence through using natural gas and other alternative fuels.

Huntsman also took a dig at Romney. When asked whether he believes “corporations are people,” a statement Romney made and has defended, Huntsman said to applause, “Of course corporations are not people. Who would say such an outlandish thing? I can’t imagine anyone running for president would say something like that.”

Unlike in previous events, where Huntsman has taken time to talk to voters and reporters, Huntsman ran outside immediately after speaking, chased by a gaggle of press. The hasty exit turned off some students. Jordan Day, a college student from Rhode Island, said she heard former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speak yesterday and felt Gingrich was more aggressive and more presidential than Huntsman. Gingrich also stayed around to talk. “I’m going to remember [Huntsman] as the guy that left,” Day said.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.

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