Thursday, June 16, 2011

Huntsman the Formidable

It is being reported that former Utah Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will enter the Republican race for president as early as next Tuesday.

I have described him before as an incredibly formidable figure, the Republican Obama should be worried about, or would be if it were, say, 1996 instead of 2012 and if the Republican Party hadn't become an increasingly extremist right-wing party that has essentially left the likes of Huntsman behind.

Here's what I wrote about him back in May '09:

I tend to agree with Obama campaign guru David Plouffe that Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (who makes Plouffe a "wee bit queasy") could be a formidable Republican presidential candidate in 2012. Bucking the rightward shift of his party, and avoiding its drive for ideological purification, Huntsman is actually something of an independent-minded figure, a moderate, relatively speaking (that is, by Utah standards), with potentially broad appeal beyond Dear Leader Rush and the right-wing echo chamber. (I have previously posted on his admirable support for gay civil unions and his admirable dismissal of Congressional Republicans.)

But I also wrote this:

Huntsman may make us all a little queasy, but, thankfully, Republicans are just too stupid to know what's good for them.

That's right, however formidable he may be, or could be on the national stage, he just isn't what Republicans are looking for these days, which is someone well to his right, someone rigidly ideological. As Hot Air's Allahpundit put it a while back, dismissing Huntsman altogether, "he's going to try to be an even more sensible 'sensible centrist' alternative to Romney, Daniels, and the rest of the moderates in the field." Yes, to conservatives, Huntsman, like Romney, is moderate and therefore un-Republican. And it's much worse in Huntsman's case because he actually worked for Obama. No matter that he's appealing and electable, and hardly a liberal, and working hard to show us all his conservative bona fides.

It's hard to imagine he'll make much of a dent in the current field. But you never know. Maybe there's room for him, maybe he runs a great campaign, maybe he emerges as (and surpasses Pawlenty as) the candidate who can potentially unite the party, something Romney can't do, something an extremist like Bachmann can't do. Or maybe he just has too much baggage and too much of an independent mind, and maybe his unorthodox record, his dissent from the current Republican mainstream line, proves too much to overcome -- after all, it's hard to see the right-wing Bolsheviks who run the party now forgiving him his various sins.

But, again, there's no denying he's an awfully impressive man. I might even go so far as to say he could very well be Reagan 2.0, or if not that, given how transformative Reagan was for movement conservatism, at least a leading Republican in the Reagan mold. He just seems to have it all, even the somewhat more tolerant and even liberal positions on some social issues that show him to be a man of the times, not a man against the times, a conservative who is open to progress and change while remaining committed to his fundamental beliefs. Perhaps he could be zeitgeist conservative, the forward-looking proponent of conservatism at a time of massive global change. But not likely, not in today's Republican Party, which would likely rather expel him that have him as its leader.

Yes, Republicans really are too stupid to know what's good for them. Which is good for us, but not good for Huntsman, who will have to wait until 2016, or forever, to make his mark in a party that has abandoned him and all those like him.


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