Is Jon Huntsman the 2012 GOP Dark Horse?
Tip of the hat to Rob Wasinger, the former Brownback chief of staff and 2008 presidential campaign manager who has endorsed Ambassador Jon Huntsman for the 2012 GOP nomination, for alerting me to this article by Deal Hudson on Ambassador Hunstman's prospects for winning:
... The question most asked about Huntsman is how Obama's ambassador to China, ostensibly a "moderate" Republican, could gain the nomination of a party presently being fueled by the energy of Tea Party and social conservative activists.As I told Rob in an email, I am not quite sold on Ambassador Huntsman yet. I have concerns about his views on "Cap and Tax" and on same-sex unions. In addition, it's fairly easy to govern as a conservative in a state like Utah, and I wonder how much of Governor Huntsman's conservatism was a product of where he was governing as opposed to who he is.
Huntsman's record suggests the possibility is not so far-fetched as some might think. Social conservatives may not realize that, as governor, he signed three pro-life bills to help limit abortions in the state of Utah. Huntsman also signed the most important school choice voucher program in the nation, a universal program not limited to low-income students in a particular district or poorly performing schools. Huntsman also signed legislation protecting the Second Amendment rights of Americans to own firearms.
As a fiscal conservative, Huntsman's credentials are unquestioned. While governor, Utah won an award from the Pew Center's Government Performance Project as the "Best Managed State in the Union," and in 2007 Huntsman signed the largest tax cut in Utah's history, earning his state the Cato Institute's number-one ranking in tax policy. Last year, Forbes magazine described Utah as the nation's leading state in job growth and the "best state" for business and careers. On top of all this, Utah's economy has recorded five consecutive years of 3.5 percent annual growth.
On Huntsman's effort to reform health care in Utah, he does not share the vulnerability of the other Mormon candidate seeking the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney. While Romney's health care program in Massachusetts is seen by many as a prototype for Obamacare, Huntsman's health care measures in Utah were designed to give individuals and families choices about their coverage and how to pay for it. For example, one piece of legislation gave citizens of Utah the ability to take defined contributions from their employers and buy their own coverage. Utah created a website called NetCare, allowing citizens to shop and compare health insurance programs.
The better-known GOP frontrunners for the nomination each has obstacles to overcome: Pawlenty will have to explain to Catholic voters why he left the Church of his birth; Romney's Achilles heel is health care; Gingrich's personal history will continue to dog him, and so on.
But Huntsman has a chance to define himself on the basis of a solid record in the midst of a field of candidates with multiple handicaps. There is good reason why David Plouffe, the former campaign manager for President Obama, said the prospect of a Huntsman candidacy makes him "a wee bit queasy."
[Read the whole thing]
But, that said, he is one of the more intriguing possibilities in the GOP field, and I could very well be won over. Such is not the case, for example, for Mitt Romney. Absolutely nothing Romney does or says could possibly change my mind about his being, at heart, a liberal and a phony. I can't understand why conservatives who should know better, such as Kathryn Lopez and the rest of the gang at National Review (except for Ramesh), are so enamoured with Romney (who has NEVER governed as a conservative and who, prior to 2008, had always run for office as a liberal) a pass, while labeling someone like Huntsman (who has actually governed as a conservative) a "moderate". The comparison of the two is an interesting juxtaposition, not the least reason being the religion angle. At any rate, I call into question the conventional wisdom that Huntsman is a "moderate".
And I definitely hope he decides to run.
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Why is Jon Huntsman Considered a "Moderate"?