John Huntsman, the former Utah governor who’s running for the Republican nomination for president, is in trouble.
He’s got some conservative ideas, but he’s running as a moderate. By contemporary Republican primary standards, however, he’s close to a radical. For example, on “PBS Newshour” this week, he said, “I wouldn’t hesitate to call on a sacrifice from all of our people, even those at the very highest end of the income spectrum.”
That approaches heresy. He hedged — as politicians of both parties do on tax increases — but expressed support for means testing for Social Security and Medicare. And he added, “There are people who don’t need these programs, and I think we need to look realistically at who they are.” He also said — gasp — that this country also needs to “recognize” its vulnerable population.
Moderates and people who run as moderates often don’t far well in Republican primaries. That’s even more true this year, which might explain why Mr. Huntsman is fighting to get out of last place in a long list of candidates. He’s hovering at about 1 percent support. He’s probably hurt by being Morman and for having served in the Obama administration, but it’s his political views that hurt him the most among GOP primary voters.
Public Policy polling has found that there simply aren’t as many moderate Republicans as there once were. In 2008, about 63 percent of Republican primary voters considered themselves conservative. It’s since risen to 73 percent.
He probably didn’t endear himself to many of those voters when he took on two of the conservative flamethrowers — Texas Gov. Rich Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Mr. Huntsman took Rep. Bachmann to task for her claim that she could bring gas prices back to below $2 a gallon, saying, “I just don’t know what world that comment would come from… It’s talking about things that, you know, may pander to a particular group or sound good at the time, but it just simply is not founded in reality.”
He’s right, but it apparently doesn’t matter.
He criticized Gov. Perry, who has vaulted from noncandidate status to party favorite, for saying that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s actions could be “treasonous” and for his skepticism about humans’ role in global warming. Said Mr. Huntsman: “I think when you find yourself at an extreme end of the Republican Party, you make yourself unelectable.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Huntsman, it is moderates these days who are at the “extreme end of the Republican Party.”