Republican presidential candidate former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks… (Jim Cole/AP Photo )
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. worked for President Obama as the U.S. ambassador to China before deciding to run against his former employer for president. On Friday, Huntsman and the Obama camp found that they agree on something else: that Mitt Romney changes his mind so much, no one can tell what he really believes.
Huntsman, trailing in almost every national poll, called Romney “a perfectly lubricated weather vane,” echoing contentions by Democrats and GOP conservatives that the former governor of Massachusetts often changes his mind. Democrats like to use the phrase flip-flopper when talking about Romney, who has been at or near the top of most polls measuring the race for the GOP presidential nomination.
“This is when the candidates need to stand up and show a little bit of leadership,” Huntsman said of his rival, in an interview with CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." “You can't be a perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day, whether it's Libya, whether it's the debt ceiling, whether it's the discussion around the Kasich bill in Ohio, where Governor Romney has been missing in action in terms of showing any kind of leadership.”
The flip-flopping contentions have followed Romney for years through a career that has included running for statewide office in the generally liberal state of Massachusetts. But it has picked up steam in this presidential run especially among conservatives in the GOP who have been looking for an alternative to Romney. Romney, who stresses his conservative views, has tried to move to the right in order to win the GOP nomination, but has been seeking enough wiggle room to continue to be a candidate who can appeal to independents in the general election against Obama.
It has been a tough strategy to maintain and polls show that Romney’s support has remained in the 25% to 30% range, leaving plenty of space for potential challengers to rise up and fall down. After a slew of “anybody but Mitt,”-type candidates, the current challenger is Herman Cain, who is leading in many polls and is no worse than second in others, often statistically tied with Romney. Cain has replaced Texas Gov. Rick Perry as the current conservative favorite, though the well-funded Texas governor is still in the race.
The latest round of Romney flip-flopping was sparked by the battle over the law that limits the power of public employee unions in Ohio. On Nov. 8, Ohio voters will decide the fate of the law, which allows public employees to bargain for wages and working conditions but prohibits strikes. Workers will also have to pay for healthcare insurance and pensions. The law, strongly backed by Gov. John Kasich and other conservatives, is on hold pending the referendum.
During a Tuesday visit to Ohio, Romney wouldn’t give his position on the referendum and was immediately denounced by conservatives, Democrats and Perry. Romney later clarified that he supported Kasich's position. “I fully support Gov. Kasich’s Question 2 in Ohio,” Romney said Wednesday. “I’m sorry if I created any confusion there.”
Huntsman on Friday said such back-and-forth raised questions about Romney’s ability to lead, a favorite contention all of the GOP presidential aspirants have used against Obama, as well.
“I do believe that the electorate this go-around will be looking for clearly defined presidential leadership,” Huntsman said. “And I'm not sure that we're seeing it.”