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Scott Stenholm

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A Democrat's Memo to the GOP: Please Nominate Jon Huntsman!

Posted: 01/10/2012 1:17 pm

With Huntsman's first real surge in the polls following a pretty stellar debate performance on Saturday I, a liberal Democrat, plead to the Republican voters (as a last ditch effort) to make Jon Huntsman your nominee. A nomination that would be a win for both of our sides.

Calling Jon Huntsman a 'Boy Scout' is short changing the man somewhat. While in fact he was an actual Boy Scout, at fifteen he became an Eagle Scout, the organizations highest rank. Ever since, it seems as if Jon Huntsman has achieved everything he set out to accomplish. Now he is a Republican Presidential candidate after a Reaganesque announcement with the Statue of Liberty as his background, you would assume that as a liberal Democrat I would have taken a frightful pause in the emergence of a candidate who I feel poses the greatest political threat to President Obama, but you would be wrong.

Besides having an office bet with a co-worker that I initiated months ago (I'm getting 4-1 odds) that Huntsman will win the nomination -- I have a significant hope that he wins it for ideological reasons. The former Ambassador to China (arguably the most important ambassadorship in this day and age) was appointed by President Obama in 2009. This was most likely both a patriotic and tactical appointment by Obama. Huntsman was certainly qualified: he is the former Ambassador to Singapore, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for trade development for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under Bush Sr., the former Governor of Utah, has a bachelor's degree in international politics, is an articulate and strong speaker, and is even fluent in standard Mandarin Chinese. His credentials are irrefutable, but the Obama White House was most likely trying to hit two birds with one stone: nominate the right man for the job while being bi-partisan and hopefully knocking out their most feared general election opponent in 2012.

Do not get me wrong, I do not want to see Jon Huntsman in the White House, just as I do not want to see any Republican there, but having him in the general election could be just the sort of kick in the ass President Obama, and Democrats in general, need. It has been heavily reported and discussed by liberal pundits and politicians alike that the Grand Old Party has moved so far to the right that it has caused the left to move to the center, if not right of center, in order to not appear too 'bleeding heart.' It can be argued that they had to go there if they wanted to get anything at all done legislatively. But Huntsman, if he stays true to his record and doesn't kowtow to an increasingly conservative Republican primary season (as McCain did to his detriment in 2008) could be a truly formidable opponent to President Obama, who otherwise is seemingly unbeatable at this point when you look at the rest of the Republican field. And this would invigorate the base in a way that having a Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann type on the ticket never could. Palin and Bachmann make Obama look liberal with ease no matter what he says or does, but Huntsman would allow the president to truly return to his leftist base.

In a Romney or Newt/Obama debate the president would only have to stand there without uttering a word to be labeled liberal in comparison, but a Huntsman/Obama debate would force the president to separate himself by going left in a way that would otherwise be politically dangerous. Against Huntsman, Obama would finally have to take a liberal hard line on climate change, gay marriage, gun control, and so on -- liberal red meat that has been neglected in recent years due to the right's B-line to the fringe.

If Republicans were smart, they would do everything in their power to make Huntsman their nominee. He has strongly supported civil unions for years but not same-sex marriage, which makes him conservative but not a fundamentalist.

As governor he signed the Western Climate Initiative, by which Utah joined with other governments in agreeing to pursue targets for reduced production of greenhouse gases, and even appeared in an advertisement sponsored by Environmental Defense, in which he said, "Now it's time for Congress to act by capping greenhouse-gas pollution." However he is against cap-and-trade, giving him talking points for both sides. He has strongly pushed for the abandonment of North Korea's nuclear program but also called for significant human rights improvements in China. He is a strong supporter of, and has even made several visits to, Israel. He has seven children, two of whom are adopted from India and China. Plus, with most of his political life having been at the state level and overseas, he can claim to be experienced while maintaining that coveted GOP stance of not being a Washington Beltway insider. And in an election that will surely be centered around a struggling economy highlighted with still less-than-ideal unemployment numbers, during his tenure as Governor, Utah was named the best managed state by the Pew Center on the States with a budget surplus that rose from $16.7 to $22.8 billion with Huntsman hitting an approval rating of 90 percent on more than one occasion.

In the end, I have faith that President Obama will win a second term, and the only thing that would make me happier than another four years of a Democratic White House under President Obama would be a White House that would be forced to embrace it's liberalism after a substantive election with an intelligent, thoughtful opponent. Under this scenario, we could reset the political rhetoric in this country where Democrats are true liberals again and where we can get Republicans off the lonely road to Crazytown.

 

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