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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says he has ruled out a race against Sen. Orrin Hatch, but thinks the six-term incumbent should step aside and quit "pandering."
Huntsman, in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/GWM7Ka ), said he also has no interest in mounting a third-party presidential bid this year.
He dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination after finishing third in the New Hampshire primary in January.
Huntsman said he has been urged by many people to run as a Republican against Hatch, but has no political plans for now.
"I'm a term-limits guy, and it would have been great for Orrin to recognize his terrific service and maybe open up something for the next generation," Huntsman said. "He wishes to continue forward - that's his decision."
But Huntsman said he finds it disheartening to see the senator take a sharp turn away from compromise after once crossing the aisle to forge major legislation with Democrats.
"I'm disappointed with the trend toward pandering, particularly in light of the serious policy issues that he was the author of that I think contributed to strong bipartisan outcomes," he said. "Pandering doesn't get us, in today's environment, where we need to be. It may get people politically where they need to be, but it doesn't get our country where it needs to be."
It would have been great for Orrin to recognize his terrific service and maybe open up something for the next generation. He wishes to continue forward -- that's his decision.
–- Jon Huntsman
Hatch campaign manager David Hansen said the senator isn't pandering.
"The senator has run a very straightforward campaign," Hansen said, adding Huntsman is a "private citizen entitled to his opinion."
Touted as a possible presidential candidate for the America ns Elect movement or other third parties, Huntsman said he's not interested in running again this year for the White House.
American Elect is using an online system to pick its candidate and hopes to be on ballots in all 50 states this fall.
"I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals, but I have absolutely no plans, no thought that I would do anything like that," he said. "I am absolutely not interested in doing it ... (I have) zero interest this election cycle."
He said he still backs presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and hasn't ruled out a future White House bid.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com
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