Jon Huntsman Is the Anti-Tea Party Candidate

Elspeth Reeve
Jon Huntsman Is the Anti-Tea Party Candidate

Brand-new presidential contender Jon Huntsman is not just a non-Tea Party candidate, but an anti-Tea Party candidate. It's like he's trying to enrage the most visible activists in the Republican Party's base. He offers civility when they want red meat, a defense of government programs when they want to slash spending. Not only did he serve President Obama, but his family supported Harry Reid--one of conservatives' biggest targets last election whose reelection was for them a major failure.

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The four ways Huntsman seems formulated to infuriate the Tea Party

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1. He's Too Nice Huntsman kicked off his candidacy by pledging he'd "conduct this campaign on the high road." He noted that President Obama loves America. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank says this pledge is what will doom Huntsman to failure. "It is an honorable theme. But Huntsman," Milbank writes, "will almost certainly find that this message spells defeat." Niceness appears to be the exact opposite of what the Tea Party wants right now. Donald Trump rose quickly in the polls based on his harsh criticisms of Obama. And Tim Pawlenty briefly got a lot of attention for attacking Mitt Romney's health care record as Obamneycare, then drew the fury of the conservative internet hordes when he refused to make the same attack in the Republican debate this month.

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2. Yet Too Ambitious And yet while he was serving Obama, his supporters were building up the infrastructure for a possible presidential campaign. The Tea Party fetishizes the Founding Fathers and their vision of our government, so the idea that Huntsman plotted to campaign against the president while serving him was horrifying enough that prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson pledged he'd "never, ever" vote for Huntsman. "While serving as the United States ambassador to China, our greatest strategic adversary, Jon Huntsman began plotting to run against the president of the United States. ... This calls into question his loyalty not just to the president of the United States, but also his loyalty to his country over his own naked ambition."

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3. Too Friendly with Democrats Huntsman famously served as President Obama's ambassador to China, but that's not the full extent of his flirtation with the other party. The Las Vegas Sun's Jon Ralston reports that Huntsman's family gave almost $25,000 dollars to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's campaign. Reid's opponent last fall was Tea Party-favorite Sharron Angle; it can't please activists that Huntsman's family contributed to the reelection of the then-extremely vulnerable Reid. Reid has known Huntsman since the 90s, Ralston says, and Huntsman nominated Reid's son Jish to Utah's Board of Regents. But is it possible the Huntsmans were nervous about the growing power of the Tea Party? When Huntsman spoke to The New Republic's Zvika Kreiger in 2009,

In dozens of interviews over the past few weeks, he has characterized Republicans as "devoid of ideas" and "gasping for air," decrying the GOP's "gratuitous partisanship," comparing it to "a very narrow party of angry people," and describing its strategy as "obstruct and obfuscate … grousing and complaining."

4. Too Moderate Then there's his actual policies. Huntsman supports civil unions. He believes global warming is real and caused by humans. And he might not want to cut the federal government all that much. "Limited government is important," Huntsman told Kreiger, "but I need to make sure that we have a government that actually delivers on issues that people expect us to manage competently and well."