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Happy Trails, Huntsman: Another Republican Candidate Rides Into the Sunset

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One down, four to go.

With former ambassador to China and governor of Utah Jon Huntsman’s none too unexpected departure from the Republican presidential primaries on Monday, Mitt Romney’s path to that party’s nomination has become considerably clearer. Since Huntsman was an innovative moderate and pragmatist, one can assume that his supporters will, by and large, be absorbed by the retired venture capitalist and Massachusetts governor. Now, a strong plurality of center to center-right voters which is truly capable of overpowering the fractured far-right wing of the GOP during the months ahead has been put into place.

Still, I am sorry to see Huntsman go. After Buddy Roemer, he would have been my third alternative choice during Florida’s primary, coming up later this month. He brought a wealth of foreign policy experience to the table, especially pertaining to East Asia, and toed a consistently moderate line on decidedly precarious social issues. His outspoken support for same-sex civil unions was nothing short of remarkable in the face of a far too often reactionary electorate. On economics, though, his enthusiasm for free trade with China definitely caused him more problems than anything else. During an economy such as this, zero tariffs, specifically on costly manufactured technological goods, garner just about as much popular support.

Beyond his hopelessly optimistic trade schemes, Huntsman simply failed to engage with a sufficient number of voters. Far too often, it appeared that he was lecturing at them instead of actually speaking with them. Hopefully, he can polish his presentation skills in time for his next run, which is undoubtedly being formulated. He is only 51 years old, so it is highly probable we will hear much from him over the years to come. In fact, I think that he would be an excellent vice presidential pick for Romney. Should they both win the Oval Office in November, say hello to Huntsman 2020.

In any case, from a strategic standpoint, it is good that the former ambassador and governor dropped out when he did. Unlike former House speaker Newt Gingrich, at least he knows how to exit with maximum dignity and minimum embarrassment.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Baronius

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Huntsman has been viewed as a social moderate. He opposes embryonic stem cell research, he favors a right-to-life Constitutional amendment, he doesn’t support drug legalization, and he opposes same-sex marriage. If he ever had gotten the Republican nomination he would have been depicted as a fanatic right-winger, a Mormon gun-nut. But somehow he got perceived as a moderate. The funny thing is, that impression got him all kinds of acclaim among the press corps as the reasonable Republican, and that in turn scared off the party’s voters who got burned the last time they chose the press’s favorite Republican candidate.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    He was viewed as a moderate because he agrees that anthropological global warming is real, and that evolution is real. Such radical concepts, of course, made him persona non grata among the GOP. Progressive pundits (and I) viewed him as the only GOP candidate with a real chance to beat Obama – not because of his support within the GOP, but because he would draw off a lot of independents because of the above views. Suffice it to say that we were happy to see him go, if only because he posed a real threat to Obama’s reelection.

    And there’s zero chance he’ll be picked for VP by Romney, because Romney is not so stupid as to pick another Mormon as his running mate, no matter how much he might personally want to do so. I’d say he’s much more likely to pick an evangelical such as Santorum to try to drum up some support among them…after which he’d find the evangelicals praying for his death just as they do Obama’s now.

  • El Bicho

    I never saw Huntsman’s birth certificate so I am glad he dropped out.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Last night Obama sent a video greeting to Betty White for her 90th birthday celebration – and of course he had to tell her that he needed to see her long-form birth certificate before he could believe she was 90 years old….

  • zingzing

    glenn: “Such radical concepts, of course, made him persona non grata among the GOP.”

    and the right wonders why our great, stupid nation is going down the toilet.

    the fact that santorum is in the final four is a perfect illustration of something truly shitty about this country.

  • Clavos

    the fact that santorum is in the final four is a perfect illustration of something truly shitty about this country.

    And that’s only one of a long list…

  • Cannonshop

    Santorum’s only in the final four, because he’s too egotistical to drop, and there’s no “elimination” function in the primary voting.

    It IS a shame Huntsman dropped out-but it’s good he dropped EARLY rather than LATE-he’s still got his reputation and potential for 2016, which will come a the end of Obama’s second term…’cause the GOP got NOTHIN’ to run with.

  • Baronius

    Glenn – Santorum is not an evangelical; he’s a Catholic. And evolution isn’t going to be a big topic in the 2012 election. And global warming probably won’t be, either.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Good point – Santorum is Catholic (there’s gotta be a really bad off-color joke somewhere in that statement). My mistake – I knew beforehand he was Catholic and simply forgot, probably since I sometimes have the habit of lumping all trinitarians together.

    But the point is still the same – Romney would never choose Huntsman because many non-Mormon Republicans would not vote for a two-Mormon ticket…and the evangelicals – while they aren’t crazy about Catholics – would certainly prefer a Catholic over a Mormon.

    The reason I mentioned evolution and global warming, Baronius, was NOT because I thought they’d be major issues. I mentioned them as examples of Huntsman’s moderate views.

  • Baronius

    Well, if they’re not issues, how would Huntsman’s stand on them allow him to eat away at the moderates? Moderates have chosen Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama in recent years. Clearly they’re not working from an evolution/AGW playbook. If social issues come to the fore in 2012, Huntsman’s pro-life position and Mormonism would have led to him being painted as a right-wing extremist. When Democratic strategist George Stephanopoulos asked Romney about contraception, you could see what the party loyalists have planned. Last time they painted McCain as an extremist in the general election. So let’s not pretend that the opposing candidate has anything to do with the plan of attack. I was reading campaign literature from 1932 recently, and if you changed the names it would still work for both parties.

  • Cannonshop

    It’s not whether or not you personally believe in anything, it is whether you’re going to make law based on it by way of executive orders.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Maybe you’re right – I’ll have to think on that.

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