As I was considering which candidate to back in the current presidential contest, I focused not just on political ideology, but also executive competence. I quickly ruled out Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum — and not just for their lack of executive experience.
Although I was, at one point impressed with Newt Gingrich’s performance in the debates and in interviews, I recalled he did not have a stellar record as House Speaker (a position which has some executive responsibilities). Indeed, one of the most principled conservatives in the Senate, a man who once served with Gingrich in the House, Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn said he was “not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich’s having served under him for four years and personally experiences [sic] his leadership“.
Within the field, only four candidates thus, former governors of Massachusetts, New Mexico and Utah, respectively, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson and Jon Hunstman and the current chief executive of Texas, Rick Perry. Even before he jumped the shark, Perry quickly disqualified himself with his erratic campaign and over-the-top rhetoric. When Johnson abandoned his quest for the Republican nomination (without getting the media attention he deserved), that left just Huntsman and Romney.
That latter has distinguished himself on the campaign trail by shining in the debates and remaining unflappable in the face of criticism. He has built a solid organization and showed, with his management of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the ability to turn around a failing enterprise. That said, while he has put forward some good ideas on how to clean up the messes created by the current administration, he hasn’t been bold enough in articulating the reforms we need to right a rapidly listing ship of state.
Now, I’ve long had concerns about Jon Huntsman one of which our reader Kurt articulates in his comment to my endorsement, contending the candidate was “seeking the approval of the mainstream media” when he could have made “the rounds of conservative media” or tried “to connect with Tea Party groups”. The Utahan showed as much recently when he joined Newt in piling on Romney’s record of Bain and in apparently questioning the sanity of his own party.
Perhaps, should he do well tonight, he’ll change his tone, realizing that more conservative voters might appreciate his bold economic plan. If he finds a way to mend fences with conservatives, he may well emerge as the conservative alternative.
It was that plan which caused me to take Huntsman more seriously. And then researching another post this past weekend, I found myself exploring the issues pages on his campaign website and came away quite impressed. Huntsman had, by and large, outlined a platform which adapted the ideals of Ronald Reagan to the problems of today. It was a conservative approach. To be sure, he left some things out, like a plan for real health care reform and a proposal on entitlements.
Given his expressed admiration for the Medicare reforms authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, it seems that when he addresses these issues, he will do so in a conservative manner.
Now, I realize my guy remains a long shot — and perhaps that factored into my decision to endorse. I wanted above all to commend him for his conservative platform. That said, he has executive experience and did govern as a conservative. Jon Huntsman is ready to lead.
And unlike the other Republican candidates, he advocates state recognition of same-sex civil unions.