Jon Huntsman’s Impressive Fox News Appearance

The “Special Report” video is not yet available on Youtube. I hyper-linked the three segments in the first paragraph of this piece.

Jon Huntsman appeared on Fox News “Special Report” Wednesday night and delivered a Q-and-A  performance that reminded me of why the media swooned over his presidential announcement. Huntsman, if nothing else, is one articulate conservative.

He can ably address any number of issues and, unlike frontrunner Mitt Romney, is not afraid to duck controversial topics. It is so refreshing to hear a Republican speak in complete sentences and use polysyllabic words.

One often dreads watching Republicans speak. Most Republicans are afflicted with the George W. Bush disease that wages war on the English language. Unlike other conservatives, Huntsman regularly delivers thoughtful answers in grammatically-correct English.

Huntsman’s command of the facts and his versatility- easily seguing from economic policy, to entitlement reform to foreign policy challenges- make him a formidable presence in front of the camera. Only Newt Gingrich can challenge him during an extended debate.

And unlike Gingrich, one needn’t worry about Huntsman staying on message. He is fastidious in his delivery and easily handles the tough questions from the media.

That skill set has not translated into his polling position, however. Republican primary voters refuse to warm to the former Utah governor. He has remained between 1-5% in the national polls since his announcement this summer.

He has staked his presidential hopes on the New Hampshire primary, where he hopes his message will catch on with independents disenchanted with President Obama’s performance but not enamored with the GOP presidential field. Last week he conducted a town-hall in the state while his GOP rivals debated in Nevada. Tonight, Huntsman said the decision was based on solidarity with the folks there, who abhor Nevada’s attempts to move their caucus date up in 2012 schedule.

Hunstman’s strategy is a sound one, and in any other year, he might have a chance to steal the nation’s first primary. Granite State voters are notoriously fickle with their selections:

John McCain won there in 2008 to the left of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The Arizona maverick also won there in 2000, running to the left of George W. Bush. Pat Buchanan prevailed there in 1996 running against the laissez-faire economic orthodoxy of other Republicans. And George H.W. Bush withstood a primary challenge from the Right there during 1992.

Unfortunately Hunstman is running against Mitt Romney, the former governor of the neighboring Bay State(2003-2007) and a part-time New Hampshire resident who has spent the last five years running for president. Romney has remained atop of the New Hampshire polls throughout this cycle and looks unbeatable in the Granite State with less than ten weeks until primary day.

Unless Huntsman soars in New Hampshire, it’s impossible to see his campaign gaining traction around the country. His heterodox views on homosexual civil unions have alienated social conservatives. His views on global warming scare the party base. And his support for winding down the nation-building efforts in Afghanistan has earned him the wrath of neo-conservatives. That’s not a recipe for winning over Republican primary voters.

This group has dismissed Huntsman’s successful time as a conservative Utah governor. In July I wrote about some of the highlights of his tenure there:

He signed the biggest tax cut in Utah history into law, reducing the top rate from 7% to a flat 5% rate. He approved three anti-abortion measures. He got a school voucher proposal through the legislature, though it was later overturned on a referendum. He also endeared himself to the National Rifle Association, approving two pieces of legislation that weakened gun-control.

East Coast observers noted his success in Salt Lake City. The Pew Center said Huntsman’s Utah was the best managed state in the country. Forbes called Utah the best state for business.

Huntsman won two state-wide elections in Utah, arguably the nation’s reddest state. He won 77% of the vote in his re-election effort. Without question, he is the party’s most attractive general election candidate and the man who could make the GOP a Big Tent Party.

But conservatives don’t trust him. They think he’s squishy on the social issues (my goodness, he believes in evolution; the horror.) and think he’s condescending towards other contenders (and the GOP base that embraces them). Republican primary voters seem to want a “real American” who relates to “the folks” residing in “flyover country.”

That may be well and good. But Huntsman is a serious man incapable of offering faux platitudes to the unwashed masses. He is polished and proud of it. He has the credentials, the experience and the knowledge to take over as commander-in-chief tomorrow. He is as prepared as one can be.

All that will likely be for not. The GOP base want a doctrinaire conservative who offers primary voters plenty of red meat during the campaign season and promises to take the fight to President Obama next year. They want someone who brings exuberance and energy. They want a hot, passionate candidate. That is not Jon Huntsman.

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