Jon Huntsman’s start to his tour Saturday of Tampa Bay began with 35 people crowded into a coffee shop in the Trinity suburb of Pasco County.
The initial reaction from fellow Republicans there: Huntsman seems nice, not sold yet.
“I think it’s going to be to his advantage to have a campaign office in Florida,” said Lisa Shippy-Gonzalez, a co-owner of Havana Dreamers Café. But, she said, “We’ve got a lot of other choices of candidates.”
There weren’t many major public officeholders there either. County Commissioner
Henry Wilson attended, but local state Reps.
Will Weatherford and
Richard Corcoran – pegged to be future Florida House speakers – backed Tim Pawlenty this week.
"Don't see a lot elected officials," said
Bill Bunting, the county's state committeeman.
Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, stuck to sweeping themes popular among Republicans. He wants less federal debt – a point that drew applause -- a new “industrial revolution,” and energy independence. He supports a flat tax.
He avoided touching on proposals to shift Medicare to insurers as part of the Republican budget plan, or whether the energy policy would involve drilling in the gulf. A few people pressed for more details.
For example, Huntsman was asked if he’d choose U.S. Supreme Court justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade, given that he signed a law banning second term abortions. He hinted without actually answering the question.
“Of course, my position on life, which has been long held from the very beginning, is very, very important to me. Everything I see in life is through the prism of the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, if I can put it that way,” Huntsman said, pointing his daughter seated near his wife.
UPDATE: A campaign official said the "of course" referred to a yes answer, even though an audience member didn't think so.