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.