Monday, May 9, 2011

2012 Contender: Jon Huntsman Jr.

Let’s continue our look at GOP contenders with a look at Jon Huntsman Jr. Huntsman is routinely described as a “moderate” by some and “not as moderate as he sounds” by others. Some of his views are indeed well within the conservative mainstream. But several of his more important views appear to be on the left end of the spectrum. Also, he's got all the wrong friends.

Huntsman is the former two-term governor of Utah. He is also a Mormon and comes from a wealthy family. His estimated worth is around $70 million. He was first elected in 2004 with 57% of the vote and was re-elected in 2008 with 77.7% of the vote. His approval ratings topped 90% at various points. So far so good. But in August 2009, he resigned to become Obama Ambassador to China. In and of itself, this should not be considered a problem, but in this case, combined with his repeated attempts to make himself out as the “moderate” candidate, this may evidence a man more comfortable with the system than political principle.

1. Economics. When it comes to economics, it’s hard to argue that Huntsman is not a conservative. As governor, he pursued a pro-business agenda of tax cuts and employment incentives. Following his term, Utah was named one of the top three states in the country in which to do business. His biggest achievements in this regard were streamlining state government, cutting the sales tax and simplifying the tax code. In 2008, the libertarian CATO Institute praised Huntsman’s tax policies, giving him the highest ranking of all 50 governors. However, CATO also pointed out that he “completely dropped the ball on spending, with per capita spending increasing at about 10% annually during his tenure.” This may be more consistent with a big business Republican than a conservative.

2. Global Warming. Huntsman believes in global warming and in 2007 signed a Western states pact with Arnold Schwarzenegger to regulate emissions in Utah. He has yet to backtrack on this stupidity.

3. Foreign Policy. It’s not clear what Huntsman’s position is on foreign policy, except that he’s known to believe in the power of diplomacy and he happily accepted the role of Obama’s ambassador to China, a job that essentially involved kowtowing to the Chinese. He praised Obama’s handling of the Osama bin Laden killing, but has yet to take a stand on other issues.

5. Social Issues.

A. Abortion. Huntsman is opposed to abortion and has signed and supported various laws to limit abortion or impose restrictions on abortion. One of these laws requires doctors to describe the pain the fetus is likely to feel to the mothers before they can get an abortion. He also helped establish a fund to defend Utah in court, should Utah ever ban abortion entirely.

B. Gays. Huntsman has riled many conservatives with his support of civil unions. He does not appear to support gay marriage per se.

C. Guns. Huntsman is opposed to gun control and actually supported unpopular bills in Utah to expand gun rights by allowing drivers to carry loaded weapons in their cars without a permit.

D. Immigration. Huntsman described himself as “moderate” on the issue of illegal immigration and has been careful to avoid getting specific. He talks vaguely of wanting “comprehensive reform,” which is generally code for amnesty. While governor, he helped introduce a “driving privilege card system,” which sounds suspiciously like drivers licenses for illegal aliens, he fought to protect in-state discounts for illegal immigrants at Utah colleges, and he worked with Janet Napolitano to expand the guest worker system.
6. The Fuzzy Stuff. Much of the “fuzzy stuff” is troubling with Huntsman. For example, he happily embraces the “moderate” label. That’s not a good sign. Also, he has sought out Bush and McCain advisors for his inner circle, people who have demonstrated they lack political instincts, an understanding of policy, and a set of principles. That’s a huge problem. He’s also the one candidate that many on the left claim is someone they could love. Jimmy Carter and Huffington Post both have high praise for him. That’s truly disturbing. Finally, most of the big players in Utah, even people like the current governor who was hand-picked by Huntsman, have all said they will support Romney over Huntsman. Again, that's not a good sign when the people who know you (and owe you) won't support you.

All told, this seems to add up to a man who favors big business and democratic policies, except in a few isolated instances like abortion and guns, and who is very comfortable within “the system” and would fit in well at the country club.


T-Rav said...

I honestly hadn't bothered even to research this guy, so little do I consider him a factor. I mean, he could surprise me and become a major candidate, but under the circumstances, I don't think anyone trying to position themselves as a moderate has a chance of winning the nomination. Besides, we've already got a Mormon in the race; who needs another? (sarc)

Tennessee Jed said...

Despite economics being my overwhelming issue, the illegal immigration stance is unacceptable. I don't mind him "believing" in global warming as long as he doesn't do anything about it (l.o.l.)

Despite Donny, Marie, and Julianne Hough, LDS is still a religious minority that is acceptable to bash in this country. Romney "might" overcome this, but Jon Huntsman, Jr.? I don't think so.

The stakes are so incredibly high, we have to find a winner. I am about to act like a little kid, stamp my feet, scream at the top of my lungs "draft Ryan, damn it!" I'm only kidding a little bit, here. The other thing I'll mention is dang I could easily get used to Cain as V.P. on most tickets. V.P.'s are used as attack dogs during the campaign, and boy does this man know how to do it well.

Writer X said...

He's like the Utah version of John McCain. No thank you.

Helpful info, Andrew. Thank you for posting!

Kosh said...

I am not sure how jr. made his money. His daddy developed Huntsman Chemical and is still the Executive Chairman of the Board. I fear jr.'s money was given to him and therefore he really doesn't know that much about business. He has a pro-business stance, but remember that group also favors inexpensive labor; that is non-union and non-citizens. The Huntsman's are cozy with the Chinese. Not that it is entirely bad that they have a good relationship, but I am not sure how deep it goes. Mormons, for reasons that always aren't clear to me, poll poorly outside of Utah and it the religion that gets in the way. Regardless of how one feels about the LDS church (and I definitely have my concerns), I think it is unfortunate to let that get in the way. Republicans must reject the idea of "we need a moderate". Look how well it worked with McCain, Dole, Ford, Bush the elder...

Kosh said...

I went to the Huntsman Chemical website and they have a specific Chinese site. They have multiple sites of business in China. I would be worried about where his loyalties might be.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I know a lot more about Huntsman, Jr. than I knew before. Of course, I knew next-to-nothing about him to start with. I've been timidly suggesting that the Republicans might end up with a dark horse. Based on what you've told us so far, I don't think he's it.

Joel Farnham said...

Good article Andrew.

I don't think he has much of a chance. The left would love to have us nominate him because they can then manipulate him.

I think one of the touch-stones in this next election should be, do they believe in global warming is caused by man. If they do, they are too stupid for words and shouldn't be considered for anything let alone president.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I thought he had no chance as well, except that he's been adopted by the MSM as "the guy." I would normally dismiss that as wishful thinking, except (1) he's lined up a lot of insiders and (2) that's how McCain got the nod last time. So I am concerned a bit.

And I'm particularly concerned that they say he's "not as moderate as he sounds," and then they highlight abortion and guns, when the rest of his record is Bit Time RINO!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The stake are truly high at the moment, which is why I'm much more willing to look at executive competence as well as pure ideology -- not as a total replacement, but as a guy who could do a great job running the country and could defer his views to the Republicans in Congress. But the more I look at Huntsman, the more I see a guy who has a set of views that would make him very comfortable as a Democrat and who I see fighting the Republicans on all things.

He's good on taxes, yes. But I see no commitment to deficits. He's taken damaging action on global warming and illegal immigration. Those are horrible signs to me and tell me that this is the exact kind of guy who would get to Washington and then feud like mad with the Republicans as he cut deals with the Democrats to get through the things he really believes.

I know many Mormons and I like them a lot, but being a Mormon is still a handicap, particularly in the South. That's a simple fact, though this could be the election where there ultimately gets overcome.

On Ryan, I get the feeling he won't run and I guess I'm fine with him staying in the Congress where he can produce budgets and the such. I just wish we could clone him and have one as President too!

I could get used to Cain too.

I'm hoping to find more as I go through this series. Maybe if we don't find any, then we'll expand the series to people we should draft?

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, You're welcome. I figured this would be a good series to go through since we want to know who these people really are before the campaign ads start telling us they are all Reagan reincarnate.

Use the link "2012 Contender" if you want to see the rest I've done so far.

Utah's McCain sounds about right!

AndrewPrice said...

Kosh, We absolutely do NOT need a moderate! I am willing to accept someone who is moderate on some issues so long as (1) they are a very competent executive and (2) they are willing to take a backseat to the conservatives in Congress. But we absolutely do not need a dedicated "moderate", which is what I think Huntsman is. He strikes me as a guy who will fight for the very things we don't want.

I agree about his business background. There is little evidence he's done much besides run the family business. And he strikes me as a big business Republican, not a conservative. And that means pro-illegal immigration, dumping business costs onto taxpayers, corporate welfare, and the cozy relationship between K-Street and the government. Those things need to be eliminated, not given another bite at the apple.

The Mormon thing is has several roots. I've known a lot of Mormons my whole life and I have no concerns about Mormonism. But many (particularly fundamentalists) see them as a cult. So that is a hurdle they will need to overcome, just as Catholics had to overcome the idea that they answer to the Pope.

AndrewPrice said...

Kosh, In truth, I'm worried about the loyalties of all international businesses. They have a track record of putting national interests last, e.g. moving jobs, caving to international pressure, etc.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, All I knew going in was that he calls himself a "moderate." The rest confirms that. What further amazes me is how little we still know about him -- that's a bad sign. He's a very typical RINO in that regard, he hides what he really means behind generic words like "comprehensive reform."

My biggest concern is that he's becoming the media darling and I can see him lasting a lot longer than he should based on that. And if that happens, we're only one or two unexpected events away from him becoming the nominee.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I agree with you. On the one hand, the issue of global warming doesn't seem political. It seems like reasonable minds can differ and thus, presumably, it's ok for people to have different views especially since the "science" has come down both ways.

But that's now how it plays out. In truth, the science in favor has been faked and the "solutions" being proposed have nothing to do with the problem. And the people who have accepted it have done so cynically with an attempt to either give the government control or exploit the government to create a market and handicap a competitor.

Presidential candidates should not be falling for that.

Ed said...

Andrew, Excellent analysis. I've heard bits and pieces of his career and they didn't thrill me. Maybe someone from Utah can tell me if I'm wrong, but he struck me very much as Writer X has said -- Utah's McCain. I just hope he doesn't catch on. And thoughts on if there are enough moderates to keep his hopes alive long enough for the conservatives to do each other in during the primary?

Kosh said...

I won't be surprised if the media narrative will be that they will call him the savior of the GOP but republicans reject him because of their rampant anti-mormonism (i.e. racism).

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed. That's a good question. If conservatives split, then a single moderate could move right on through. But in this case, several of the conservatives aren't really conservatives. So we're looking at a split of conservatives and moderates. How that will play out, I don't know. What I do know is that unless someone becomes a legitimate front runner (which means stepping up, something they all seem afraid to do), then this is going to stay somewhat ugly and unsettled for a very long time.

AndrewPrice said...

Kosh, So far the media theme has been that he is our "savoir" because of his support of global warming and civil unions. The media is going with the "he softens the edges" theme.

I'm not so sure they MSM will be quick to attack anti-Mormon sentiment because (1) it's a religion other than Islam and thus not worthy of protection in their eyes and (2) Mormons tend to vote Republican and are thus pure evil.

Ed said...

Andrew, I don't see any of the current crop stepping forward. They all seem to be playing a game of reverse chicken. Frankly, it makes them all seem more cowardly, insignificant and like they are the last people who should be president.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It does seem that way. I've been saying for some time that if anyone wants to be the nominee, they need to stand up. The fact no one has is why guys like Trump are getting such play. And it makes me think we need someone new to jump into the race, because this group isn't making the grade.

Notawonk said...

he'd be a definite NO for me. he lost me at global warming and even his opposition to gun control couldn't help him ;)

StanH said...

Dull as dishwater, and he knows how to reach across the aisle…barf. The press is trying to set us up with another McLame…no thanks.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, I've got him crossed off my list too. The few things I like that he's done do not compensate for the many that I cannot tolerate and I don't trust that he will suddenly become more conservative if elected.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, That's how the MSM works. They try to push either totally unacceptable candidates or people who aren't genuine conservatives because they know we are unlikely to win with these people and we wouldn't be happy even if we did win. We need to put an end to that and show this guy the door early.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I don't know about Ryan. There has been a lot of speculation that in private, he's not entirely ruling a run out. And frankly, we might wind up in a position where it becomes a necessity. I say this partly because I agree with LawHawk's statement; I think this coming election is as prone to a dark horse nomination as any within living memory. But more importantly, it's clear that the question of how to tackle the debt, health care, etc. is going to be the major issue in '12. So far, Ryan is the only one who's provided a comprehensive plan for dealing with these problems, and can defend it in debate. If our current "candidates" continue to fizzle, he may be our only viable option. This doesn't necessarily mean he'll be the nominee, of course, but I do suspect we'll see a major "Draft Ryan" bid within the coming months, if nothing else.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, On the one hand, Ryan is a real asset in the House working on legislation. On the other, Ryan would make an excellent President and he may be our best candidate. I just don't know if he'll run. If he does, I would absolutely support him.

And this is the year for someone to join the race late and just run away with it because no one else in the race is getting any traction. So if he wants it, this might be the best time for him to grab it.

I think you're right that we will see a lot of "Draft Ryan" efforts starting up soon because he really is just head and shoulders above the current group.

What we need would be for him to run now, beat Obama, do the two term thing and then go back to the House! Call me greedy, but I like the sound of that! :-)

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