10/07/2014 08:44 am ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

George Pataki for President: "Right Wing Republicans With a Human Face"


If he's serious, the Republicans of New Hampshire and elsewhere are in for an interesting time. George Pataki is heading north from New York, where he retired as an undefeated three-term Republican Governor.

Do not underestimate him. There's a sort of aw-shucks persona he puts out there. He's smart. He's not encumbered by previous entanglements with the nutty Republican infrastructure. He is/is not conservative enough. The big money boys like him.

I worked with him and against him for 12 years. He's got genuine human qualities that are admirable. He's a stone-cold political killer (His big move was defeating the Republican Senator who gave him his start, and he was Al D'Amato's protege). Unlike a lot of Republicans he surrounded himself with competent people who could think strategically as well as manage day-to-day stuff.

But is he conservative enough? Depends. Conventional wisdom is that the Republican primary electorate is interested only in red-meat, take-no-prisoners, Tea Party reaction. Even though he knows better, Pataki is capable of providing aid and comfort to the hard right, without the baggage of crazy (like a fox) Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. But when push comes to shove Pataki will have to make a few existential choices. He's not rabidly anti-choice. His environmental record on land preservation is pretty good. He dealt well with the Latino community. He negotiated agreements with Democrats when he had to. What he will want to do is blur the lines enough to keep everybody happy. He could become America's version of Czechoslovakia's Alexander Dubcek, who proclaimed "Socialism With A Human Face" except substitute "Reactionary Republicans" for "Socialism."

The current Republican field cries out for a shakeup. The American electorate is not as far to the right as the Republican electorate. They now appear ready to again put ideological straight jackets around their candidate, just like they did to Romney. But keep your eye on Just-Plain-George. Stranger candidacies have emerged. Remember Obama?