Former ambassador and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is working New Hampshire hard to win next year’s Republican primary there as a linchpin of his presidential campaign. He still registers a scant two percent in national GOP polls, but he is far and away the most impressive of the Republican field. Were he to capture the nomination, he’d give President Obama a run for his money.
No one would ever mistake Huntsman for a Democrat or even a Republican in the Rockefeller-Nixon tradition. I disagree with him on many issues. But he is not blindly locked into the narrow, reflexive, doctrinaire ideology of the other GOP candidates.
Before he took on that ambassadorial role, he served two terms as Governor of Utah, cutting taxes and earning accolades for his management of government. He left office with an 80 percent approval rating. Somewhere along the line, he was CEO of his family’s company. (And by the way, quite charmingly, he also rides a motorcycle and played keyboard in a band.)
Prevailing in the Republican primary is a stretch for him. Huntsman has already had to temporize on some long-held positions, especially in the area of green energy. He has not performed particularly well jumping through hoops in GOP debate situations, and his campaign is dogged by staff turmoil and reorganizations.
In a reasonable primary environment, he might have a chance. But GOP voters this year are out for raw red meat, or so the candidates believe. Huntsman may not be enough of a feral creature for them. That’s too bad, because a Huntsman-Obama race would be fascinating to watch and could lead to an informative public dialogue. Maybe this is just a national introductory tour, with the expectation that the party will select an unelectable purist, go down to ignominious defeat and leave him to pick up the pieces four years from now.
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