by Hardball guest host Michael Smerconish
Let me finish tonight with a word on the candidacy of Jon Huntsman.
So far, the former Utah governor has run a textbook campaign. Unfortunately, that textbook is a guide to competing in the general election, not the primary. Everything that distinguishes him with an electorate looking for balance and moderation is an anathema to the conservative base that dominates the GOP landscape.
That a candidate as qualified as Huntsman has yet to earn more than four percent in any national poll is the latest proof of the sheer obstinacy of the Republican base. Huntsman is smart. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. He has executive experience after serving as the immensely popular chief executive in Utah.
His stint in the Commerce Department gave him true business bona fides. He has extensive foreign policy experience. He served as Ambassador to Singapore when he was just 32. And yes, given the volatility and emerging superpower in the Far East, Huntsman's time as Barack Obama's Ambassador to China is an asset, not a liability.
He calls himself a "mainstream conservative," but his brand of conservatism went out long before Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell. He supported civil unions; believes climate change is for real; defended compromise plans to raise the debt ceiling; would like our troops out of Afghanistan - quickly.
He believes in evolution, calling it "part of God's plan." He thinks Michele Bachmann's promise to lower gas prices to $2 per gallon isn't grounded in reality and Rick Perry's "almost treasonous" quote was similarly less than serious.
He'd would rather cut tax rates for individuals and corporations and simplify the country's tax system. By the way, the Wall Street Journal deemed his economic plan "certainly better" than any of his presidential peers. He regards his opponents as "all good people." And worst of all to the GOP base, Huntsman said President Obama is a "good man" who "failed us on the most important issue of our day." Huntsman's upstaging by the likes of Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann may be a reflection of his late entry into the race.
But more likely, it's the latest sign that the GOP base values talking points and ideology over temperance and electability.