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Huntsman: Cain scandal sucking "all the oxygen"

Republican presidential candidates businessman Herman Cain, left, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, get together prior to a debate Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux
Herman Cain, left, and Jon Huntsman, get together prior to a debate in September.
John Raoux

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Monday that the sex scandal engulfing GOP rival Herman Cain "takes all of the oxygen out of the room" and is making it difficult for the other candidates to their policy messages across.

In an interview with ABC News and Yahoo News, Huntsman was asked whether the Cain controversy was hurting the Republican Party. "I'm worried about the 14 or 15 million unemployed who are not able to tune into a discussion about how we're going to expand the economic base and create jobs," the former Utah governor said. " ... It takes all of the oxygen out of the room."

Cain, a Georgia businessman, has been accused by four women of sexually inappropriate behavior, including by one woman, Sharon Bialek of Chicago, who went public with explosive allegations on Mondaythat Cain aggressively groped her in a car in 1997 when she asked for his help finding a job. special report: Election 2012

On other topics, Huntsman, who has consistently trailed in national polls, including his target primary state of New Hampshire, said he still believes he has a shot at the nomination with victory in the first-in-the-nation primary state. "It'll happen in New Hampshire. Failure is not an option," he said, adding that he feels a "sense of connection with the people of New Hampshire."

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He also pointed to the volatility in the race, as one candidate after another has risen and then fallen in the polls, especially those with appeal among tea party voters and diehard conservatives. "I'm getting a little whiplash in the race watching everybody go up and down," Huntsman said.

He also stressed his conservative positions in the past. "People should not confuse a moderate temperament with a moderate record," Huntsman said, pointing out that as governor, he supported a flat tax, gun rights and government vouchers for private school tuition.

Huntsman was among the Republican candidates being interviewed Tuesday as part of a joint venture between the network and the online news provider.

The interview ended with a lighting round of quick questions.

His worst job ever? Cleaning restrooms in a Japanese restaurant.

His TV guilty pleasure? HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Junk food? A fried Oreo from New Hampshire.

Theme song? I Won't Stand Down, by Tom Petty.

Who should play him in the eventual biopic? Tom Hanks.

Watch the interview below:

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.