Huntsman clarifies GOP sanity comment

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

HAMPSTEAD, NH -- After speaking to an overflow crowd at a coffee shop here, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman elaborated on recent comments which some Republicans have interpreted as suggesting today's GOP has lost its mind.

In an interview with Politico Friday, Huntsman said he subscribes to the theory of cycles of history.  "I believe we are in one such cycle," Huntsman said.  "I think that cycle ultimately takes us to a sane Republican Party based on real ideas."

It did not take a stretch of inference to conclude that Huntsman was suggesting the current Republican Party is not sane.  Asked about his comments after the coffee shop appearance Sunday, Huntsman at first answered, "I'm encouraged by Paul Ryan.  I'm encouraged by people who are putting forward real ideas in the Republican Party.  We need more of that than we need theatrics."

But what about the suggestion that the GOP is nuts?  "We are sane when we stand up and we talk about real solutions for the American people," Huntsman said.  "We are insane when we stand up and light our hair on fire, when we engage in political theatrics and soundbites that just don't make any sense. The American people need real ideas, and they ultimately want to be brought together.  They want this country to work."

With voters set to go to the polls in less than two days, Huntsman is moving up in New Hampshire.  By most accounts, he turned in strong performances in debates on Saturday night and Sunday morning.  And a new Suffolk University tracking poll has him at 11 percent, in third place in the race, but still 24 points behind frontrunner Mitt Romney.  But Romney has been slipping a bit in daily polls, and Huntsman appears filled with optimism.

"I can feel the surge on the ground," he said outside the coffee shop.  "I can feel it.  It's very real…It's that wave effect in physics.  Once it begins, you can't turn it back.  And that wave effect is beginning."

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner