Jon Huntsman Is Not a Moderate

Two posts from opposite ends of the spectrum are letting folks know that newly-announced GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is not a moderate, at least politically.  Here’s what Ezra Klein says:

I’ve noted previously that Jon Huntsman’s campaign strategy appears to be to match a moderate, conciliatory tone with an orthodox conservative policy platform. And sure enough, he’s endorsing a balanced-budget amendment. It’s not clear if the specific balanced-budget amendment he’s endorsing is The Worst Idea in Washington — in which case, Huntsman will have to explain how he’ll handle the fact that Paul Ryan’s budget, which he has also endorsed, will be unconstitutional — or just a relative of it. Either way, it’s not moderate in the least. Which isn’t to say it’s not good politics.

And here is what Daniel Alott says:

Many Republicans, and much of the media, call this a “moderate.” That is how they are labeling former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who officially entered the GOP presidential fray on Tuesday. Whenever Huntsman’s name is mentioned, it is usually accompanied by that most unhelpful of primary season adjectives. But while Huntsman’s temperament is moderate – his record isn’t. Indeed, his policy positions should endear him to most conservatives.

Huntsman has a strong pro-life record, both as a chief executive, signing several innovative pro-life laws as Utah’s governor from 2005 to 2009, and as a private citizen, as a father of seven, two adopted. He also supports gun rights and has an unwavering commitment to Israel.

Huntsman’s support for civil unions and responding to climate change has had him pegged as some sort of Rockefeller Republican (which has been described as in one reading). But his moderation is one more of tone than it is one of politics. While such moderation might not be attractive to die hard centrists, I do think it might be more appealing to those who want to be persuaded to vote GOP, but don’t feel they can’t with some of the current crop of candidates (think Michelle Bachmann). I don’t think it’s an accident that Huntsman kicked off his campaign at the same place Ronald Reagan did a generation ago.  I think he is less about reviving a moderate, northeastern-style Republicanism, than he is reviving a Western conservatism ala Reagan.  Reagan was no doubt a conservative, but he is remembered as trying to expand the conservative family, instead forcing purity tests on folks.

Huntsman is not a moderate politically, but he is trying to hone a civil and civic-minded conservatism, something that just might appeal to moderates and independents.

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  1. Pingback: Jon Huntsman, Conservative - Big Tent Revue

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