Exclusive: Utah's Republican Governor Warns GOP Leaders, "You Can't Just Say No"

Huntsman, Obama, Capitol

With the party reeling from Sen. Arlen Specter's defection, a prominent moderate Republican governor is warning that GOP leaders in Washington have failed to offer a positive alternative to President Obama's initiatives.

"You can't just say no. You can't just obstruct or obfuscate," Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said in an interview with ABC News. "Instead of just kind of grousing and complaining, it would do us all a whole lot of good if we actually started engaging directly in finding compromises and common ground and shared solutions."

Huntsman is one of the most popular Republican governors in the country and a possible candidate for president in 2012. He gives fellow Republicans an "incomplete" grade on their first 100 days as an opposition party.

"I would give the party high marks for unified opposition, getting everybody in line, keeping everybody contained, in opposition to some of the initiatives of the Obama administration," Huntsman said. "That now needs to be supplemented by real ideas and solutions."

So far, Huntsman says, Republican leaders have failed to do that.

"When you are devoid of the ideas, or the content that would allow you to articulate or paint a better future, you have no choice other than to fall back on 'no, we are not going support it, it cannot be done,'" Huntsman said.

Huntsman isn't entirely negative on the Republican performance so far. He says party leaders are beginning to recognize the political danger of being perceived as a "party of no." "The next step," he said, "is to find concrete substantive solutions that not only make you loyal opposition but also put you at the negotiating table."

In November, Huntsman won re-election with 78 percent of the vote in Utah, one of the most solidly Republican states in the country and one of the most conservative, but he is an unconventional Republican, staking out moderate positions on environmental issues like climate change and favoring gay rights.

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