Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Huntsman Heresy: GOP's Last Chance

For a long-time Democrat who loves his country much more than his party, it may seem like an agonizing choice: a sane Republican to oppose Barack Obama or one of the revolving front-running clowns who would be easier to beat next November.

The question is brought on by the serial implosions of Bachmann, Perry, Cain et al with Newt being teed up for next 15 minutes of fame on the dog-and-pony debate circuit.

The answer is easy. No American wants to play Russian roulette with the country’s future so, in that spirit, a political strategy for Jon Huntsman Jr., whom I would not support in the general election but who, free of the Tea Party’s yoke, might restore some sanity to the campaign:

Right now, Huntsman has practically fallen out of the polls—-and for good reason. His contortions to fit the crazy contest have made him invisible, and his efforts to slip the bonds of Obama-bashing orthodoxy look lame and wishy-washy.

Yet he is poised to separate himself from the pack, if he can muster the courage to do it. In the next debate in Washington on November 22nd, he could break through and give the country something to be thankful for by embracing a heresy that so far has dared not speak its name—-renouncing the GOP’s rush toward an extremist cliff and offering an aggressive alternative to bringing back traditional Republicans and Independents next year.

What does he have to lose? His 3 percent in the national polls? Huntsman has been working hard in New Hampshire, and a super PAC is now running ads there, supporting him as “someone we can trust as a conservative.”

Yesterday, he was at the liberal Brookings Institution, criticizing loopy proposals of Romney, Perry and Cain, noting that “you’ve got to at least pass the straight-face test in terms of what can be done with Congress so it’s not laughed out on day one.”

If he shows the guts to say that forcefully to Republicans, he can in one stroke stake out a position and give what may be their silent majority a voice. Setting off a Tea Party firestorm is a much better choice than being left for dead in the snows of New Hampshire.

Huntsman was willing to put his country first by serving as Obama’s ambassador to China. Now he has an opening to serve both his country and his own presidential chances in another dicey setting.

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