My latest is up at PJ Media and it looks at the doomed candidacy of Jon Huntsman in the context that his “government friendly” views might be his legacy, and that other pragmatic GOP governors will benefit from his run.
Huntsman, like many Republican governors, has gotten a reputation as an executive who gets things done by building consensus, engaging in careful negotiations, and presenting a non-ideological governing style that attracts independents and conservative Democrats. On paper, this makes Huntsman a challenger of some note. The theory is that because the Democrats are not going to primary the president, independents and dissatisfied Democrats will vote in Republican primaries in droves, thus moderating the electorate and diluting the impact of Tea Party types.
Many analysts point to New Hampshire as an example because the Granite State has an open primary where Republican party membership is not required to vote in the GOP contest. The early primary states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan all feature such open primaries. Might a center-right candidate build momentum with victories in those early states and move on to capture the nomination?
The reality is a little different. Most open primaries are in southern states where Huntsman’s brand of conservatism wouldn’t go over any better with Democrats than it does with the Republican base. Also, there just aren’t enough open primaries for a Republican candidate to win the nomination. Any realistic path to victory for Huntsman would include winning in closed primary states where he scores poorly against other candidates in the field, and where there is actual resentment against his candidacy from the base of the party.
Huntsman may see himself having a realistic shot at the nomination. But beyond what is shaping up to be largely a media-driven fantasy run, there is the notion that what Huntsman represents — his principles, his governing style, and his government-friendly ideas — may outlast his candidacy and herald a rise in national influence for a new breed of GOP governor.
They are chief executives who have built solid reputations for reform by gaining consensus rather than provoking confrontation. They are less the ideologues than idea men, preferring to work with the opposition when feasible and getting high marks from voters for doing so. Their bottom line is getting the job done, not playing “gotcha” games or scoring wins and losses. It may be more a matter of temperament than intelligence or skill, and they place a premium on competent management of the executive.
Some, like Mitch Daniels and Mitt Romney, are technocrats. Others, like Scott Walker and Chris Christie, are more confrontational, but get high marks for their political skills. In the end, getting things done trumps ideology and sometimes even partisanship.
Most GOP governors ended up taking stimulus money, of which about $120 billion was earmarked for the states. It is likely that even without a stim bill, that money would have ended up in the hands of the governors anyway, due to the fiscal crisis in most state budgets. Faced with the choice of ideology or pragmatism. most chose the latter. This did not sit well with many national Republicans who hold it against those GOP governors who put the interests of their states over the the political whims of ideologues.
Huntsman may be the epitome of this new class of governor. Daniel Allott summarized the conservative case for Huntsman in Politico:
Predictably, I am getting slammed in the comments. The 25-30% of the GOP that believes competence and pragmatism are not what people want out of government serve up all the idiocies about RINO’s. They just can’t stand the fact that someone like Huntsman agrees with 90% of their agenda but is still somehow weak or squishy on the issues. He’s not loud enough, abrasive enough, and he actually wants to work with all sides to reach an agreement on legislation. What used to be generally accepted as good governance is now treason. God help us if these jamokes ever do win the White House.
I’m not supporting Huntsman, and I definitely don’t think he has a chance of winning. He is the “anti-Romney” candidate who is hoping that the former Massachusetts governor is knocked out early to clear the way for the real battle; the hard right versus the pragmatists. But Huntsman will never make it that far. Romney will self finance and probably be in the race to the end.