The New York Times has a very good article on Jon Huntsman’s viability with conservatives given his work for (and past praise of) Barack Obama’s administration. As we have suggested, it may not be a hindrance at all.
On paper, given his affiliation with Mr. Obama, Mr. Huntsman would seem to be facing a tough time in a primary where anti-Obama sentiment is expected to run high. But in a crowded field, with many Republicans signaling dissatisfaction with the candidates thus far, his supporters hope he could get beyond short-term challenges with a long-term pitch of electability.
“The stage is set for an attractive new player who can inspire Republicans,” said Richard Quinn, a Republican who attended the dinner with Mr. Huntsman here two years ago and intends to support him if he runs. “By the time we get around to voting next year, the one thing that will pull Republicans together is beating Barack Obama.”
A candidacy by Mr. Huntsman would test just how frustrated voters are with the party’s current lineup and would determine whether there is room in a Republican primary for a fiscal conservative and social moderate, who would present himself as a strong general-election choice.
This election will be too critical for the GOP to have their cake and eat it too. The Bachmanns, Palins (if she runs), and Cain’s of the world will get early support from the hardcore “purity” republicans. But once it is clear that those candidates have no shot at winning the nomination or the general election, voters will turn their eyes to the more moderate candidates that the center is supporting. It happens every time (which is how we ended up with McCain, Dole, George W. Bush, who, lest we forget, was originally viewed as a more moderate conservative).
Of those candidates, my opinion is that they would rather go with someone fresh and new than vote for retreads like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, or uninspiring candidates such as Mitch Daniels or Tim Pawlenty. Personally, I do not think that GOP voters will sit this one out if the candidate is not conservative enough for them. If gas is still between $4 and $5 a gallon on election day they won’t have a choice.