Campaign Trail

Jon Huntsman, the Reasonable Candidate the GOP Needs

Jon Huntsman’s grown-up talk is exactly what the GOP needs. By Mark McKinnon.

Jim Cole / AP Photo

It's tough out there these days for "compassionate conservative" Republicans. With President Obama increasingly vulnerable, it's been difficult to watch as GOP candidates like Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann seem intent on putting an increasingly ideologically conservative and intolerant face on the party. They are pulling the primary contest so far right, the party will be far less attractive to independent voters needed to win the general election.

This is a political environment ripe for a moderate with centrist appeal. Which is why it was refreshing to see former Utah governor Jon Huntsman unload on rivals for appealing to the fringes.

He was sharply critical of Perry's comments about Ben Bernanke's policies as "treasonous" and his skepticism of man-made global warming.

Huntsman also unloaded on Bachmann's ridiculous assertion that as president she would get gas prices down to $2 a gallon. Huntsman was also the only candidate in the recent Republican debate to endorse the debt-ceiling deal—the only realistic and responsible position, given the potential calamity that avoiding an agreement likely would have caused.

Huntsman may not be saying things that are politically popular to some in the GOP primaries, but he is showing he is responsible, credible, and willing to tell some hard and obvious truths. It's called leadership. Which is what is sorely needed today.

Which is also why Republican voters and powers within the party continue to solicit additional candidates to join the field. As Perry just proved, these days, even if you get in late, you can expect an avalanche of media attention and instant exposure. So, for those of us who consider themselves center-right but not far right, we'd love to see more candidates running who appeal to a broader swath of America and who would have a better chance to attract independent voters for the general election.

Paging: Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Rudolph Giuliani, George Pataki, Jeb Bush. Your party needs you.