A few days back, I wrote a blog post arguing that the country’s new centrist mood might provide a narrow window to the GOP nomination for a moderate like Jon Huntsman, who can still check off the key pro-gun and pro-life boxes. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin was one of several bloggers to throw the liberal media bias flag at me, noting, among other things, Huntsman’s mixed record on spending and support for cap and trade legislation. “Frankly, it doesn’t pass the laugh test,” she said of a Huntsman candidacy.
To that, I would respond with two words: John McCain. Big supporter, in the 2008 campaign at least, of confronting global warming. Big supporter, in the 2008 campaign at least, of comprehensive immigration reform. Huge campaign finance reformer. He liked some Democrats so much that he wanted to pick one as his running mate. And yet, after hundreds of articles were written about why McCain was not conservative enough, after months of talk radio condemnations of McCain, he won the Republican nomination. Why? Because Republicans have a long history of being (small-c) conservative in their selection of nominees. They tend to go for the guy they know, the one they think can win.
Today, CNN has a poll confirming that after years of Tea Party uprisings, and midterm primary upsets, the Republican Party hasn’t changed that much.
According to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday, nearly seven out of ten Republicans say they would prefer a GOP presidential nominee who can top Obama in the next election, with 29 percent saying a nominee who agrees with them on every issue that matters the most is more important.
It is way to early to tell if Huntsman, who may not even run, will be able to capture this most-likely-to-defeat Obama mantle, which Mitt Romney is clearly trying to corner for himself. But if he does, I have no doubt that pure-blood conservative ideologues will stop laughing and start fighting back.