“New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters who want to field a candidate with broad appeal and the capability and credibility to have a shot at beating President Obama have three choices: putative frontrunner Mitt Romney, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and diplomat and two-term Utah governor Jon Huntsman. The choice of Huntsman should be clear,” write the editors of the Concord Monitor.
Huntsman does indeed appear to be a sober, competent politician. He’s a moderate on social issues (at least as liberal as Obama so far as I can tell), a staunch fiscal conservative, and has detailed a smart, forward-thinking plan for the future of American foreign policy that’s at once far more clear-headed than anything we’ve seen in recent years from the GOP and still manages to avoid the pitfalls of Ron Paul’s somewhat more drastic return to non-interventionism. I’m not sure Huntsman could be smeared so easily with the isolationism tar brush.
Huntsman’s detailed financial reform plan gives Too Big to Fail a quick death. This should give him broad cross-over appeal between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. The former Utah governor is hardly a radical, however. He’s no gold-bug, yet he remains firmly in the free market camp.
As politically important, Huntsman has no (known) baggage either in the form of racist old newsletters or flip-flopping a la Newt Romney (to borrow from Mrs. Bachmann.) He’s been a consistent conservative who has not flinched from his more socially liberal positions on gay rights and global warming.
While he certainly may have botched his entrance into the GOP race, he’s still probably the best thing the GOP could hope for in a candidate. Imperfect on the culture wars, true, but strong on fiscal matters. And perhaps the culture wars are a doomed fight for social conservatives anyways. I still think social conservatism has a better chance at survival by taking Rod Dreher’s advice and working outside of politics.
In any case, Huntsman and Ron Paul are both gaining momentum in New Hampshire while Gingrich slowly slips back into the hole he dug for himself in the 90’s. But Mitt Romney remains leaps and bounds ahead of both candidates. It seems unlikely that either will have time to surpass the former Massachusetts governor in time for the January 10th primary which is coming up fast.
Still, Huntsman has picked up some endorsements, is going on the offensive, and is campaigning hard. He has none of Mitt, Newt, or Paul’s baggage (that we know of) and is mostly bogged down by voters’ lack of familiarity with him. Either he’s positioning himself for a 2016 bid, or he’s got some trick up his sleeve. We’ll know soon enough.
So why did I come out in favor of Ron Paul instead of Huntsman? After all, Huntsman wants to cut defense spending, get out of Afghanistan, and leans toward non-interventionism. He’s socially fairly liberal.
I suppose the reason is because Ron Paul and Gary Johnson are quite radical proponents of peace, whereas Huntsman remains fairly centrist on most issues. Even on foreign policy, I suspect Huntsman would be far more prone to becoming entangled in a Libya-style operation. In many respects he reminds me of the current president. Why vote for the devil we don’t know over the devil we do? Obama is perhaps a left-leaning moderate, but he hews to the center for the most part. I may admire Huntsman’s brand of conservatism, but I lean left myself. If I were a Republican and wanted to reform the Republican party or if I were still interested in reforming the conservative movement, Huntsman might be just the ticket.
But I’m not a Republican and I no longer feel any investment in the future of the conservative movement outside of a diminishing hope that someday the conservative movement will repair itself and present a smart, competent alternative to Democrats and progressivism in this country. Balance is important, but when one side is so off the rails no balance can exist. (Indeed, in many senses the obstructionism and games Republicans have played for the past three years have made government even more a part of our day to day lives, dragging the whole damn country into each tiny budget fight until we’re all just exhausted by it. Enough already!)
I would not fear a Huntsman presidency. A part of me thinks having a Republican in the White House would sober up the GOP in congress and then maybe, finally, we’d get something done.