Huntsman suggests Perry might be dismissed as someone "not serious on the issues"

In an interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper to air on “This Week” Sunday, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — the presidential candidate many pundits considered a footnote in the Iowa events last weekend — took aim at Texas Gov. Rick Perry — the candidate who adroitly executed his entrance into the presidential race with an immediate presence in three important primary states.

Specifically, Huntsman took issue with Perry’s characterization of QE3 as “treacherous … almost treasonous” and his skepticism about evolution and global warming. But what was ironic about the attack was that Huntsman — who consistently polls in the single digits — said Perry risks being dismissed as someone “not serious on the issues.” It seems Huntsman would rather be seen as serious than as a serious contender. The Hill reports:

“I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues,” said Huntsman in an interview with ABC News’ Jake Tapper to be aired on This Week on Sunday.

“Every time we have these sideshows take place, finger-pointing and name-calling. It takes us that much farther off the ball, which is fixing our core in this country, is getting our economy fixed and creating jobs,” added Huntsman. …

On the campaign trail, Perry had said [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke would have been treated “pretty ugly” in Texas if the Federal Reserve chief were to print more money and suggested such an action would be “almost treacherous — or treasonous.”

“I don’t know if that’s pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas,” added Huntsman in his interview, a reference to a report that Gov. Perry had once said that Texas could leave the United States “anytime we want.”

It’s all a bit rich coming from Huntsman, who casts himself as the “civility” candidate but tweets snarky remarks, inserts subtle jabs at his opponents into his conversation and continually resurrects the “sideshows” — like Perry’s secession comments — he says are damaging to the Republican image. (FWIW, the hypocrisy bothers me more than the snark.)

Huntsman’s comments remind me of what I said about Pawlenty early on when T-Paw complained about the media’s obsession with Sarah Palin’s bus tour: Candidates do themselves few favors when they fixate on the competitors they see as a threat. Better to keep their eyes on the frontrunner or (better yet) the incumbent. All too often, the criticisms lower-tier candidates make are valid, but come across as petty. In this case, as Ed has pointed out, Perry did word his verdict of QE3 more strongly than was necessary or even appropriate. And Huntsman surely does have an edge with independents who accept evolution and global warming without suggesting Perry marginalizes himself by giving voice to an alternate opinion — views that, incidentally, plenty of Americans share. All that does is remind voters that Huntsman is himself a marginal candidate.