Jon Huntsman is rarely the best-known Republican presidential candidate in a room. But he is the best. We hope he is able to begin to close the gap between those two realities in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.
Huntsman is the most thoughtful, the least ideological of the aspirants in the Republican field. If it is a handicap to be the adult in the room, that's a sad day.
Unlike Mitt Romney, he is not a chameleon, a politician who has more flip-flops in his inventory than Famous Footwear.
But Huntsman's positions can be too subtle for some doctrinaire Republicans. For example, he opposes gay marriage but supports civil unions. That may offend zealots on the religious right, but it coincides with the tolerant, live-and-let-live attitude of most Americans and moderate Republicans.
He is a fiscal conservative. Look at his record on taxes while he was governor of Utah. He pushed through a flat-rate income tax that has been the holy grail of conservatives for decades. Liberals attacked that as regressive tax policy. Yet Huntsman also championed a reduction in the sales tax on food, the most regressive of taxes and the one that hurts the poor the most. It's that kind of balanced, sensible approach to policy that the United States needs.
No other Republican candidate can touch Huntsman's expertise on international trade and foreign policy. As a former ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush, and as President Obama's ambassador to China, Huntsman knows well some of the most important emerging markets in the world. If Americans are truly worried about China's growing economic and military power, they should support a presidential candidate who knows that territory.
Yet, oddly, some Republicans hold that expertise against Huntsman because he served as Obama's ambassador. Most Americans, however, say they want their political leaders to rise above partisanship for the good of the nation, which is precisely what Huntsman, a lifelong Republican, did when he accepted Obama's appointment to the nation's most important diplomatic post.
Like most Americans, Huntsman would bring American troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Again, that may place him in hot water with some in his party, but it's the right thing to do.
Huntsman has focused his early campaign almost entirely in New Hampshire, betting that when Republican and independent voters get to know him, they will like what they see. For the good of his party and the nation, we hope he's right.