Tea Partiers for Huntsman?
The GOP field is getting a second look from some conservatives. As Newt Gingrich's support slides, a substantial chunk of the GOP base remains uncommitted, in the wake of the rise and fall a series of not-Romneys. Inevitably, this leads to a reconsideration of the others in the field, as well as the occasional consideration of late entrants or re-entrants. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum appeal to those who believe a clear enunciation of conservative principles can triumph in the general election, while Ron Paul rides a wave of interest and support.
But poor Jon Huntsman, despite those good looks, a family fortune, a governorship and ambassadorship, and a gorgeous family, still hasn't caught much heat as an alternative to Romney and Gingrich. So it was with some relief, as an editor interested in presenting readers with a multitude of voices in the race for the nomination, that I found a self-described tea partier, a constitutional conservative, writing a thoughtful declaration of support for Governor Hunstman.
Tom Meyer at Federalist Paupers begins methodically, setting out his criteria for judging which candidate to support:
1. What has he done that is relevant to the office he seeks? and
2. Can he get into office and, once there, deliver on his previous record?
The plusses for Huntsman:
As to the first question, Governor Huntsman has record of achievement in Utah that should give conservatives of all varieties much to applaud. Tax hawks can note that he reduced sales, business, and state income taxes, saving Utah's taxpayers a net of $409M. Pro-lifers may note that Huntsman signed three anti-abortion bills while in office: one banning second-trimester abortions, another making third-trimester abortions count as felonies, and a third requiring abortion providers to explain that unborn children experience pain. Libertarians and gun-owners can celebrate his liberalization of Utah's draconian alcohol laws and Utah H.B. 357, recognizing the right of citizens to carry concealed weapons on their property and in their vehicles without a license.
He considers some of the downsides:
The most significant failure of his administration was on spending, where his record was truly abysmal, increasing it by 6.8%/yr in real terms over the course of his governorship. Additionally, Huntsman's lack of concern over the TARP bailouts as well as his health care reform package - a smaller, more efficient version RomneyCare, though without the individual mandate - were stains on his record.
The most interesting contention to me came in the electability category:
Huntsman looks better on close inspection than he does at first glance; if he can rise in the polls, he's unlikely to fall back again. Second, his diplomatic demeanor and lack of interest in playing the hotblooded culture warrior make him more attractive to moderates and independents. Third, his nomination will put the president at a tactical disadvantage; sure, it's possible to attack a man whose last job was answering his president's call to serve and who resigned amicably only a year ago...but it's tougher to pull off when you're that president.
My own take on Hunstman had been that he was unlikely to take the fight against Obama to the mat. He has even said something to the effect that he would fight the campaign on the issues, not on the man, which is usuallya call for GOP unilateral disarmament, as was the case in 2008. But Meyer's point is that having appointed Hunstman to high office in a strategic position, negative campaigning against him can cause ricochet damage.
I believe the GOP base is itching for a fundamental critique of the direction Obama has taken the country, domestically, especially the economy, and globally, weakening us, groveling before a desert tyrant, pressuring Israel, and supporting jihad spring. If Huntsman decides to take the fight to Obama, he might catch fire. He can maintain that diplomatic demeanor, but his critique has to be thorough.