Jon Huntsman doesn’t strut around the debate stage saying “illegals should be electrocuted” or “Obama is a Marxist, fascist, Muslim.” He doesn’t have a catchy and overly simplistic motto like 9-9-9, but don’t let his rational appearance fool you into believing he’s one of us.
We’ve all known Jon Huntsmans. He’s the guy in high school who’s quiet, smart and well liked, but too straight laced to be what you’d call popular. Somehow, though, he wins Student Body President.
Jon Huntsman is smart. He is well liked (enough that President Obama chose him for Ambassador to China). He’s sane, especially against a backdrop of the current Republican party. He’s pro-science, sort of. He’s a Mormon, but he isn’t abrasive about his religion. We don’t know of any scandals. We don’t know of any flip-flops, then again, he’s gotten very little scrutiny, from either side of the fence.
That is starting to change. The Republican Presidential field has been like virgins to a volcano. One by one, they ascend to the top, only to be thrown into a pit of deadly molten lava. Then there are the non-virgins, Romney and Gingrich, men who are just a little too well-known, whose own words are their biggest obstacles.
The Republicans are finding themselves left with the quiet, brainy guy in the corner, and as some are starting to recognize, that’s not so bad…for them. Contrary to the beliefs of many progressives, Huntsman is a dyed in the wool conservative. He’s anti-regulation. He’s pro-free trade. He is a big advocate of the Paul Ryan, kill Social Security and Medicare, budget (putting him even further to the right than Romney). He owns a chemical plant, whose claim to fame was the invention of those environmentally awful plastic egg cartons. He does believe in manmade climate change, but he doesn’t think the government should do much about it.
He is to the left of the rest of the Republican field on issues like same-sex marriage, but not by much. He doesn’t support gay marriage, but does support the ‘separate but equal’ alternative of civil unions. Huntsman believes that abortions should be outlawed, except in the cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is at stake.
Republicans are starting to give Huntsman another (or perhaps a first) look, and not just the moderate Goldwater types (are there any of those left?). Tea Party Republicans are accepting Huntsman into their fold. Ultra-right-wing Tea Partier and Red State blogger, Erick Erickson is beginning to consider Huntsman, blaming the media for Huntsman’s liberal reputation. George Will is apparently coming around to a Huntsman candidacy.
One question remains, who will Huntsman cater to? At this point, his reputed “reasonableness” is both his strength and his weakness. It allows him to stay above the fray that is ripping his competition to shreds, but it’s sending a confusing signal. The question is not, “Who is Jon Huntsman?” We already know that answer. He’s a conservative. The question is, “Who is Jon Huntsman courting?” Right now, it seems that the only way to win the Republican primaries is to court the very far right, but just this week, he dissed the right-wing mascot, Donald Trump.
As more attention is being garnered on Huntsman, we’ll see if he starts bringing his A game to the next Tea Party.