Don't Count Out Moderate Republican Jon Huntsman

Thursday, February 03, 2011 - 04:52 PM


It would be a mistake to count moderate Republican Jon Huntsman out for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and even more of a mistake if Republicans don’t give him serious consideration.

To start with the candidate himself, you can’t ignore the X-Factor. Huntsman has it. It's more of a calm charisma than the chummy feel you get with Huckabee, head and shoulders above McCain’s gruffness and much more genuine-feeling than Romney. Add his executive experience as the governor of a deep red state and successful business background, and he’ll be looking pretty good to fiscally-focused Republicans that don’t care as much about social issues.

Huntsman’s family is widely considered to be super-connected within the conservative establishment. If this enables him to out-fundraise his opponents early, and snag some early endorsements, it could be a big boost. If he’s seen as the top moderate in the race, and as the best chance to peel away enough independents to take Obama down in the general, you can expect some mainstream conservatives to move his direction on electability.

The trick will be getting those voters to the primaries and caucuses in enough numbers to at least keep him in the game, and use the open primary states, where independents can vote for him without changing registration, to put him over the top. With no contest going on for the left or moderate independents, those states will be much more likely to make their voices heard for him.

He has some serious problems though. He is going to have to find a way to explain to his party why he took the job with Obama, but this could be made into an advantage if he’s smart, especially for those tired of Washington rancor. His views on civil unions, being Mormon, his statements in support of the stimulus and environmental legislation— these are all problems in a Republican primary,  but he’s more conservative on fiscal issues, education, gun rights and is pro-life.

He’s not going to get the ideologically pure base anyway, so the points that peg him as a staunch moderate might not be as much of a hindrance as people think, if (and this is a big if) there are at least two major candidates splitting the base.

His main worry should be if the more conservative segment of the GOP base coalesces around someone. McCain was able to weather attacks from the right wing of his party, but will Rush and company be more strategic this time around and coalesce behind someone? Or perhaps will the effect of No Labels and the general pushback against partisan extremism grow and be able to help mitigate these far-right forces?

Regardless, some in the party are sure to see the writing on the wall, that someone who can peel independents off of Obama will have the best shot. They want a win badly, and for the mainstream conservative who is no ideological purist, along with more practical minded establishment types, this is a compelling argument.

John Avlon aptly said in a recent CNN segment that he thinks Huntsman is the “first candidate that the White House is genuinely concerned about." They should be. Unlike Obama’s recent rhetorical moderate epiphany, Huntsman has been walking the walk for years. He’s no true centrist by any means, but he’s the only Republican candidate who is clearly going to run that I, along with most of swing voters, am likely to seriously considering voting for. The GOP would do well not to ignore this.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.


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Comments [4]

Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

No Labels doesn't have anything to do with not describing someone accurately, it means you put aside your labels when you sit down to get work done, and try and find common ground.

Mainstream dems aren't particularly unhappy with Obama, his approval ratings with most of his party are still very high. Its the left wing of his party that is displeased.

Really... just look at his track record, from state leg, in his book, as a Senator, in his stated and voting positions... he's a liberal, just not an extreme one. I'm not going to cherry pick.

Feb. 10 2011 03:17 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

I was under the impression that you were part of this "No Labels" movement but apparently not...

I would be interested to read your opinion on what is particularly liberal about Obama's policies and also, why is his base on the Left so upset about the timidity of his course of action so far.

Feb. 08 2011 03:45 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

Doesn't bother me that he worked for Obama.

Obama's policies, and career long track record, are not moderate, much less centrist. He's no left winger, or socialist as the right wingers would have people believe, but he's certainly a liberal.

My centrist project? You mean my blog?

Feb. 08 2011 03:28 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

"He has some serious problems though. He is going to have to find a way to explain to his party why he took the job with Obama".
I wonder if this is an objective and detached observation of the potential political dynamics or if you somehow share the "unease" over the fact that a conservative actually dared to work for the "Other Side". A sentiment that would be very inconsistent with the philosophical principles you seem to advocate.
Sentences like "...a general pushback against partisan rancor..." once again sound as if you too see some sort of equivalency between the current campaign of misinformation and distortion coming from the Right during the Obama years in response to his very mild, centrist policies and the liberal remarks made during the Bush years for his actual disastrous policies that brought the nation on the edge of bankruptcy. Obama's "recent rhetorical moderate epiphany", does not seem recent at all. In fact it seems to have outraged the liberal Left for a long time now. Could it be that the unexpected moderate nature of this administration is filling a void that your centrist project was hoping to fill? I say this because it sure looks to me like you try to perpetuate the false idea that there is a perfectly symmetrical partisanship coming from both the Right and the Left and I seldom read about the substantive difference in policies between say, Obama's Health Care Law and Bush's war in Iraq, or between the economic devastation left by a decade of conservative policies and the painful but necessary stimulus package that was needed to "stop the bleeding" of the disaster left behind by the GOP.

Feb. 07 2011 10:56 PM

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