SALT LAKE CITY — The day before former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s announcement of a 2012 presidential bid, Utah Democrats went on the attack with a spoof ad and conference call with national media.
The ad draws from Huntsman’s recent commercials featuring a man riding a dirt bike through red rock country. Those ads have perplexed critics more than swayed them, with reviews of “ambiguous” and even “weird.”
If anything, the Democrats’ parody is at least more on-message. “In 1 day,” it reads, “Has reversed positions he took as governor.”
The script, set to music, shifts to “Riding away from his record,” and then “Not paid for by Jon Huntsman. Either one of them.”
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland said Monday the ad was intended to call out Huntsman’s flip-flops in recent weeks.
“It is pandering and not consistent with who he has been in the past — and who Utah voters expect he would be as a candidate,” Holland said in a conference call with reporters from across the country.
Holland pointed to three specific reversals — on cap-and-trade, the economic stimulus and health care reform.
Holland said Huntsman was pro cap-and-trade. Now, he said, it appears there are higher priorities for Huntsman. He said Huntsman once said the economic stimulus was not big enough. Now, Holland said Huntsman claims the stimulus has failed. On the issue of health care reform, Holland said Huntsman was in favor of an individual mandate; now he is talking about a repeal of the reform law.
“What we think is happening here is the nominating process of the GOP is held captive by the extreme right right now — what we call the “tin foil cap-wearers,” Holland told the Deseret News. “The governor seems to be pretty anxious to play to that crowd right now.”
The comments and video drew a strong but brief statement from the Huntsman campaign.
“Holland's distortions don't pass the smell test,” spokesman Tim Miller typed. “Gov. Huntsman led Utah as a strict economic conservative, cutting taxes, balancing budgets, and passing free market health care reforms without a mandate. That is the record he will run on."
Holland said Democrats needed to “expose” the flip-flops, because they did not represent who Huntsman was as governor.
“It seems as though he’s taken the same track that others have done to appease the far right and many people thought that was not going to be Gov. Huntsman’s strategy, and it appears it’s going to be,” Holland said.
Regardless of the war of words and ads, Huntsman will make his 2012 campaign official Tuesday from northern New Jersey, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop.