John Huntsman is every liberal’s favorite Republican, and that’s worth about as much as a VHS of “Waterworld”

by Elias Isquith on September 7, 2011

Dave Weigel’s following John Huntsman around New Hampshire, and I gotta tell you, he sounds mighty skeptical that the media’s favorite Republican stands much of a chance of winning any votes from, y’know, Republicans:

“I’m pleased that you’re civil,” says Joe Polidoro, a pharmaceuticals salesman who’d brought his young daughter Stephanie to meet Huntsman. “You make sense, compared to some of your competitors.”

Huntsman finishes the script. “Well, this country is ready for a common sense conversation. A common conversation based on practical, real-world solutions. You know, like the kind you do as governor. That’s where we are. You’ll like the economic plan we’ve put together.” He tousles Stephanie’s hair. “Stephanie will like it in particular, because it addresses the concerns of your generation! So you’re not so saddled with debt.”

The former governor of Utah and ambassador to China—he is quicker to mention the first job than the second—walks on. Polidoro explains just what he likes about Huntsman.”I think he’s smarter than the others,” he says. “He makes sense. I mean, look who else you’ve got out there—Rick Perry, he wants to secede from the country! I thought that was settled by the Supreme Court in the 19th century. You can’t secede from the country.”

So he doesn’t like Perry, but he likes Huntsman. What other Republicans does he like?”I voted for Obama last time,” he says. “The Republicans aren’t giving him time to try to get us out of this [mess]. It’s really a disgrace.”

So, if the election came down to Huntsman or Obama, who would he vote for? Polidoro thinks about it for a couple seconds.

“I’d probably vote for Obama,” he says.

Somebody else has probably said this already, but it struck me recently that John Huntsman is the Republicans’ version of Joe Lieberman.

I kind of like the guy, I’ve got to admit. He seems decent enough; he definitely doesn’t seem like an ideological nutter or a Bible-thumping Christian nationalist. If this were a different era, a time when the New England liberal Republican was more than just a fading memory, I could imagine finding myself totally comfortable with a President Huntsman.

But even then, the chances that I’d actually vote for the guy? Slim-to-none. And when one considers that if, by some miracle of miracles John Huntsman won his party’s nomination, he’d still be the titular head of the Republican party—and thus beholden to that party’s platform and priorities. In that scenario, the idea of my supporting the man in total and earnest is borderline absurd.

And this is how the conservative people I know spoke (and still think) about Joe Lieberman. They thought he was really an all right dude. They’d never in a million years vote for the guy, but they thought he was a scholar and a gentleman. Good people. It really got on my nerves sometimes, to hear these paeans to the vapid neocon in DLC clothing; and I imagine that, for them, that was more than a small part of the fun.

Another similarity: I think John Huntsman got about as much of a chance of running against Barack Obama for President in 2012 as Joe Lieberman.

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