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Video: Confirmed – Jon Huntsman Supported an Insurance Mandate

Morgen on May 31, 2011 at 12:11 pm

This isn’t news exactly. The Huffington Post ran a story on May 20 quoting several credible sources who suggested that Jon Huntsman was in favor of an individual mandate in the 2006-2007 timeframe while serving as governor of Utah. Since Huntsman has yet to announce whether he is running next year, there has not been any sort of official campaign response to the HuffPo piece. But there have been a couple of contradictory claims. Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah, a former campaign adviser to Hunstman, was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune stating that he does not recall Huntsman ever supporting a mandate. In the same article, the former Utah Health Director who served under Huntsman claimed the idea of a mandate was on the table, but Huntsman “never endorsed it”.

If Huntsman does decide to enter the race, add this to the list of things his campaign is going to have to address. It turns out Huntsman was asked about his support for an individual mandate directly at a press conference in 2007. As you’ll see, his response does not really leave much room for interpretation:

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In light of this clip, you have to love the headline of the Tribune piece I linked above: “Huntsman considered health care mandate for Utah, some say”. Some? I have to say it really was not that difficult to dig up this clip and there was even a reporter from the Tribune at the press conference. Is it really too much to expect local media to look through their own archives and report accurately on questions of national significance like this? It seems to me that Huntsman’s support for the mandate would have been common knowledge amongst the reporters assigned to cover the governor in this timeframe, and I suspect this wasn’t the only time he was questioned about this.

Of course it’s hard to say how significant this revelation may turn out to be given that Mitt Romney, the presumed front-runner, not only supported an individual mandate but unlike Huntsman actually signed it into law. Tim Pawlenty apparently also has a less than pristine record when it comes to the mandate.

Many consider this an unforgivable offense for Romney, and it is hard to imagine how he will overcome this, especially in the more conservative primary states. But between Pawlenty and Huntsman, I’d say Huntsman comes out looking the worst over this issue. Not just because Huntsman seemed more unequivocal in his support for the mandate, but the fact that Huntsman pushed for a mandate as a Republican governor in a conservative state says a lot I think about where he falls on the ideological spectrum. As opposed to Pawlenty, who based on the reporting so far, seemed to be much more resistant to the idea and was of course a Republican governor in a fairly liberal state.

Regardless of who looks the worst on this, for many conservative voters this issue is a significant strike against all three of them, and one I’m sure that Democrat strategists are relishing to wield against them next year in their defense of ObamaCare.

Update: Ben Smith posted this clip at Politico and it’s already elicited a response from a Huntsman spokesperson:

As Gov. Huntsman has said, he looked at a number of different options — including a mandate — assessed them good and bad and decided to put forth a free-market health care plan without a mandate. That program is now the national model for market-based health care reform and on the opposite end of the spectrum from Obamacare.

This gets to the point I made above. Did the healthcare plan Utah ultimately enacted not include a mandate because Huntsman changed his mind about the advisability of this policy? Or was it because the much more conservative Utah legislature opposed the idea? Based on the Huffington Post’s reporting, it was clearly the latter but if Huntsman opts to run it would be worthwhile for someone else to corroborate this.

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