Huntsman Seeks to Steal Some of Perry’s Spotlight

BY Margaret Warner  August 19, 2011 at 9:07 AM EST

Jon Huntsman; photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Jon Huntsman addresses a Republican town hall meeting in Charleston, S.C., earlier this month. Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s first substantial New Hampshire campaign swing since stopping in the Granite State on his announcement tour last weekend proved to be a bit more turbulent than the beginning of his Iowa rollout earlier in the week.

Organized Democratic protesters greeted him in Portsmouth, N.H., on Thursday, and one woman was caught on camera verbally coaching her son to ask the newest presidential aspirant to enter the race some pretty loaded questions, such as, “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.”

“Here your mom was asking about evolution, and you know it’s a theory that’s out there, and it’s got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools,” Perry said to the woman’s son. “Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

The day before, in Bedford, N.H., Perry questioned the scientific evidence suggesting humans contribute to what causes climate change. “I think we’re seeing almost weekly or even daily scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man made global warming is what is causing the climate to change,” Perry said.

In a move that is far more about trying to gain some attention and traction than it is about a desire to have a full-fledged policy debate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman tweeted the most aggressive and sharp contrast within the GOP field since the race began.

“To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,” Huntsman tweeted.

This comes one week after Huntsman defended his support for gay civil unions, a lonely position in the Republican presidential field, on the Fox News debate stage last week in Ames, Iowa.

Huntsman knows well that evolution, global warming science and gay civil unions don’t make up the issue matrix that seems to have a natural home in the modern day Republican Party primary electorate.

However, he also knows that there’s no running from his record on these issues if his campaign is trying to shape a narrative of him as “truth teller” to distinguish himself from their portrayal of Mitt Romney as unprincipled and politically craven in his positions.

With a 2 percent in average in the national polls, Huntsman has yet to make a dent in the race, but his tweet toward Perry suggests he’s willing to get scrappy and put the debate over the direction of the Republican Party front and center in his quest for the nomination.

WARREN EXPLORES

Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday formed an exploratory committee for a possible U.S. Senate run in Massachusetts, creating the potential for a high-profile race against freshman incumbent Scott Brown in 2012.

Warren is already a big name in Washington. She helped conceive and develop the Consumer Financial Protection Agency created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. She’s developed a reputation as passionate (her critics may say abrasive) advocate for the rights of credit cards users and mortgage holders and has plenty of enemies inside the Republican Party. Were she to win in 2012, she would count as colleagues Republican senators who made clear they would have blocked her confirmation if the president nominated her confirmation to lead the CFPA. (Perhaps more awkwardly, she will be part of a caucus that includes some fellow Democrats who also were not too keen on her potential nomination.)

Warren has created a website so supporters can sign up for email alerts, volunteer opportunities or to give money.

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe reports that Warren has been traveling the state on a listening tour, holding several sessions a day in the start of what promises to be a packed Democratic primary.

“Seven Democrats have declared they are running in next year’s party primary for the seat.

“Warren, though, is the favorite of national Democrats concerned that none of the existing candidates can effectively challenge Brown, who shocked the party in 2010 by winning the special election to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy, a party icon.”

Already, partisans on both sides are attempting to define Warren.

“As a native of Oklahoma, the anointed candidate of the Washington establishment, and someone who has spent many years ensconced in the hallways of Harvard, it’s a good idea for Professor Warren to learn more about her adopted state of Massachusetts as she prepares to compete in a crowded Democrat primary. If she’s really listening, she’ll hear that her plans for higher taxes and more Washington spending will kill jobs,” Brian Walsh, National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director, said in a statement.

EMILY’s list, a group that promotes female liberal candidates for office, praised Warren’s decision to look into a run.

“I’m thrilled that Elizabeth is pursuing this next endeavor with the thoughtfulness and respect that’s been such a hallmark of her career. Starting a listening tour is not only a great way to find out what folks need, it’s a perfect contrast to Republican Scott Brown, who has yet to hold a single public town hall,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement.

FENIGOLD OUT

While liberals are cheering the Warren news, they won’t get to see another one of their heroes, former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, back in the game this cycle.

Feingold told supporters via email Friday that he would not be running for U.S. Senate or governor in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

Craig Gilbert has the details:

“In an email going out to supporters early Friday morning, Feingold called it a difficult decision but said he wanted to devote his time to teaching full time at Marquette Law School, finishing the book he is writing on the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks and leading the political committee he founded, Progressives United.

‘While I may seek elective office again someday, I have decided not to run for public office during 2012,’ Feingold said in the email.

“Some Democrats were looking to Feingold as perhaps their leading candidate against (Wisconsin Governor Scott) Walker next year in the event of a successful recall drive. His announcement ends that scenario.”

With Feingold out, Democrats will have to look elsewhere to compete for the seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl. The seat is a potential pickup opportunity for Republicans, and Wisconsin’s status as a pivotal swing state in the presidential election means that race could get a lot of attention next year.

Feingold lost his seat in 2010 to businessman and Tea Party favorite Ron Johnson. He served in the Senate for three terms and was known for his strong stance on civil liberties. He was the only senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act and also introduced a measure to censure President George W. Bush because of the president’s warrantless wiretapping program.

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