Sunday, May 17, 2009

What does Hunstman move mean?

The big news politically yesterday was Republican Governor of Utah Jon Hunstman accepting President Obama's offer to head the U.S. mission to Beijing. So it would appear that one of the GOP's strong candidates for a White House run in 2012 is already bowing out of that race. This move by Huntsman is important, if for no other reason than what it says about the current state of affairs with the Republican party.

Just this week, walking PR disaster, RNC head Michael Steele made some comments that caused a stir. While that in and of itself is not exactly breaking news (when doesn't Steele stick his foot in his mouth), the comments themselves may shed some light on why Huntsman did what he did. In discussing Mitt Romney's defeat, Steele said:

Remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life,
from pro-choice to pro-life. It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had
issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitt because they thought
he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you're talking

This was the rare case, where Steele was right. Evangelicals killed Romney's chances. According to Pew, 1 in 3 had a problem with supporting a Mormon. How far does this skepticism over LDS go within the Republican "base?" How about the fact that even Glenn Beck is not immune. Focus on the Family took down a web interview with Beck, when concerns were raised over the fact that he was a Mormon. So in case you're keeping score, Evangelicals have no problem if you are a raving lunatic, you just can't be a raving lunatic who believes in another fantasy than they do.

So what does this have to do with Hunstman's decision? I think it means Hunstman sees the near-future prospects for the GOP ain't so good. Huntsman is gonna sit this one out and increase his bona fides for 2016. And that is not a good sign for the GOP. Hunstman was gearing up for what looked like a run. As Benen points out, not long after David Plouffe (Obama's campaign manager) acknowledged Huntsman was one of the potential candidates that actually worried him, Hunstman hired noted McCain advisor John Weaver and had several "campaign like" events scheduled in Michigan recently. (You may recall, we pointed out Huntsman as a potential new leader of the Republican party after the election). That's not exactly the steps a man who plans on sitting the race out would take. So what happened? Benen notes that an interesting thing happened with one of those Michigan events: Republican leaders in one county pulled Huntsman's invitation when they learned he favored civil unions for gay couples.

"The voters want and expect us to stand on principle and return to our
roots," the local chairwoman of the GOP said. "Unfortunately, by holding an
event with Gov. Huntsman, we would be doing the exact opposite."

It was a ridiculous move, of course, but it also sent a signal to
Huntsman about the level of maturity in his party -- or in this case, the lack
thereof. It's certainly possible the response from this county and other GOP
activists made clear to Huntsman that it's not worth even trying to take the
lead in the party, at least not in the near future.

So, for now he's teaming up with Obama, perhaps wondering if
Republicans will have grown up by 2016.

It's yet another example of the GOP shutting more and more people out of its big tent. Hell...LDS was pretty much the sole reason why Prop 8 passed in California. If the "base" won't accept them after that, they are probably realizing that they're never gonna get a seat at the grown-folks table in the GOP. They keep this up and the LDS folks might yet become the latest large group of folks to migrate en masse to the Democrats.

To paraphrase your hero: Heckuva job there, Evangelicals.

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