WASHINGTON -- In piecing together a hot take on what might have propelled Donald Trump from loutish pitchman to Republican front-runner, you might want to begin with the 2012 presidential primary.
In the very early stages, nearly all the candidates from the established to the wacky made a pilgrimage to New York City for an audience with The Donald. They came seeking publicity, money, and -- in the case of Mitt Romney's campaign -- in hopes the visit would prevent Trump from disparaging them.
We say nearly all the candidates sought out Trump.
There was one GOP hopeful who refused to take Trump’s bait. That would be former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. On this week’s episode of the Candidate Confessional podcast, we asked him about his refusal to kiss Trump’s ring.
He insisted the decision was an easy one.
“I thought [of] it as 90 percent theatrics and 10 percent fundraising,” Huntsman said. “It was everything that I disdained about politics. Everything I disdained about politics – politics about big personalities, about big fundraising... And I watched people one by one go up to the gilded tower and do their thing.”
According to an Associated Press report, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) all visited Trump, as did Herman Cain. Romney, the eventual nominee, spent 45 minutes with Trump at his office. “I enjoy Donald Trump. He was colorful," he said after the meeting.
That visit in particular struck Huntsman. “He didn’t have to,” he said, marveling that the front-runner for a presidential nomination felt the need for a tete-a-tete with a birther conspiracy-spewing reality TV star. "If you are a strong nominee with a good base of support you don’t have to worry about that."
For his refusal to go to Trump's gilded tower in midtown Manhattan, Huntsman got himself into a social media brawl. Trump tweeted that he had no reason to meet with a candidate with no chance of winning the nomination, to which Huntsman's campaign replied that he “isn’t wasting his time w/Presidential Apprentice.”
“I thought I’d rather go down in flames than play that game,” Huntsman told "Candidate Confessional." “It’s just not right. It’s not what the American people want. Yet everybody -- I was so shocked -- one by one they would line up and they would do it. And I just decided that I wouldn’t be part of it.”
Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist
Listen to the podcast above or download it on iTunes. And while you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. Make sure to tune in to next week’s episode, when our guest will be singer (and reality TV star) Clay Aiken who discusses his dramatic run for Congress in 2014. This podcast is edited every week by Christine Conetta.