Huntsman embraces Boehner debt plan dividing GOP

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Wednesday called House Speaker John Boehner's plan to end the stalemate over raising the federal government's debt ceiling "the best solution on the table right now."

In an interview on CBS' "The Early Show," Huntsman, the former Republican Utah governor and President Obama's ambassador to China, embraced the speaker's plan for a short-term increase in the government's borrowing authority even though the plan showed signs of faltering after being met with stiff resistance among House Republicans aligned with the Tea Party.

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"It's the only act in town," Huntsman told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill.

Boehner's plan doesn't differ much from the Democratic plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports. Both would cut federal spending without raising new tax revenue. Both would appoint a bipartisan commission to identify future cuts.

The major difference is that, under Boehner's plan, Mr. Obama would have to ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling at least one more time before the 2012 presidential elections.

The speaker's plan was dealt a blow Tuesday with congressional budget analysts reporting that it wouldn't actually make as many cuts as Boehner said it would, prompting the speaker to delay a vote on the bill from Wednesday to Thursday.

Still, on "The Early Show," Huntsman endorsed Boehner's plan.

"We've got to find a solution here, and I think Speaker Boehner's solution is right on," Huntsman told Hill. "It cuts where we need to cut. He talks about tax reform, where we desperately need it as a country."

Huntsman also praised Boehner for backing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which Huntsman described as something "we're going to need."

"It's the best safeguard that we can have toward a run-up in spending, and he's looking at entitlements as well over time," Huntsman told Hill. "It's a two-step process to be sure, but I think it is the best solution on the table right now."

Huntsman is having a tough time standing out among the contenders for the GOP's presidential nomination, CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford reports.

(At left, watch Crawford's report on "The Early Show")

He entered the race promising a campaign of civility, saying he would sidestep the typical attacks and deliver a positive, forward-looking message.

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"We will conduct this campaign on the high road," Huntsman said when he officially threw his hat into the ring. "I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the office of president."

Since then, Huntsman has largely stayed above the fray. But now, two months later, to say Huntsman's campaign has failed to get traction is an understatement.

He's barely registering in national polls. A recent CNN/ORC poll shows 10 others ahead of his result of winning over 1 percent of primary voters, including three people -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (14 percent), former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (13 percent) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (13 percent) -- who haven't even said whether they're running.

In the key state of New Hampshire, where Huntsman hopes to go head-to-head with the frontrunner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, he doesn't even crack the latest poll.

So Huntsman now is taking a newly aggressive approach. He's replaced his campaign manager and already is taking sharper aim at Mr. Obama, for example, taking to Twitter to call his position on the debt ceiling "reckless," "misguided" and "politically convenient."

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The presidential race is still early. The Republican field still isn't settled. Huntsman hasn't even participated in a presidential debate, so a lot of people really just don't know who he is. The question, though, is whether, once they know him, will those Republican primary voters agree that this moderate Republican is the one to take on Mr. Obama.