GOP 2012 primary candidate Jon Huntsman returned to the Lowcountry on Saturday, speaking frankly about his vision for the executive branch and what we should expect from a Congress when he's in office.
A former Utah governor and former ambassador to China, Huntsman has focused most of his attention on a good showing in make-or-break New Hampshire. But he has also put together a solid team on the ground in the Palmetto State.
The candidate spoke to a crowd of roughly 80 at the Berkeley County Republican breakfast, spending time working his way from one personal chat to another before speaking to the entire audience.
Huntsman said he'd tackle a "trust deficit" in Washington, calling on Congress to do its job and institute term limits for legislators. "The roots go very deep and it keeps them there forever," he said.
He wants to correct the nation's fiscal deficit with tax reform, manufacturing growth and a tough stand on spending cuts that accommodates no sacred cows.
"I'm going to get this economy moving, just like I did in my state," he said.
Huntsman seems to be pinning his campaign on more primary voters weighing that record, where he says he cut taxes and ended up with a more efficient state government and a fast-growing Utah.
"I have a track record," he said, confident that voters will find something to like. "Nothing else I could say would be that instructive."
Huntsman said after the speech that he favors the slow growth he's seen in the polls to the swift climb of other candidates. "We haven't lit our hair on fire," he said, noting the attention others have received has been followed by a steep drop in the polls.
The meeting gave Huntsman a chance to speak with local voters, but the shadowy presence of surprising front-runner Newt Gingrich was ever-present. Gingrich stickers peppered lapels in the audience while bumper stickers quickly disapeared from a table in the back of the room.
Bill Bates, a member of Goose Creek 9-12, said Huntsman performed better than he did for a town hall forum earlier this year. "He better understands his audience," he said.
But Bates is still deciding between three other candidates who might have his vote, including one he never thought he'd vote for: Gingrich.