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A Tale Of Two Governors

From across the pond, Daniel Finkelstein offers words of caution for conservatives stateside:

In April Governor [Jon] Huntsman of Utah was riding high. He was one of the most popular governors in the country, having been re-elected with 78 per cent of the vote. His popularity wasn’t a mystery. He is lucid, moderate, likeable, an accomplished individual with a good grasp of economics and the ability to speak fluent Mandarin. He has a strong business background and had been Ambassador to Singapore. During his tenure Utah was named the best managed state by the respected Pew Research Centre.

So Mr Huntsman’s name had just started to be bandied about as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012. Here was a man with real appeal outside the base, the only candidate from the centre. And the governor began to accept a few out-of-state invitations. In May, for instance, he was down to address Republicans in Kent County, Michigan. Nothing big time, a toe in the water, that was all.

And then, a few days before the event, Kent County Republicans announced very publicly that they were withdrawing the invitation. They had discovered that Governor Huntsman favoured civil partnerships between homosexuals. They did not want to be addressed by such a man. Two weeks later Barack Obama announced that he had offered Governor Huntsman an appointment as Ambassador to China. And he had accepted.

Mr Huntsman’s decision is a tragedy for the Right in America. But it is the right decision for him. Because he correctly divined that there was no point him seeking the leadership of the Republican Party. For the Republican Party already has a leader. It is Sarah Palin....

There is no more eloquent statement of modern Republicanism than resigning office with time still on the clock. Mrs Palin has chosen to talk about power, rather than exercise it. She would rather write a book and give lectures about being a governor than actually be a governor. And her party has made the same choice.... [F]or a party that seeks to govern to speak so openly of its dislike of governing, of the people who govern and of the place from which they govern, isn’t entirely serious....

The maths of politics aren’t very complicated. If you want to win and you don’t have enough votes from people who agree with you, you have to win support from people who don’t by accommodating their views. You cannot win elections by getting the same people to vote for you by pulling the lever harder. This, however, is the strategy the Republicans seem to be embarking upon.

You can read the whole piece here.

Update: Also, for any who missed it, Zvika Krieger's excellent Huntsman profile is here.

--Christopher Orr