The Republican primaries are coming up, and as a voter from Minnesota, I am excited to see my state delivering not just one but two potential candidates for the presidency. Minnesota is a state that has traditionally served as a base of the progressive right-wing, the kind of independent, pragmatic, get things done kind of politician America so vitally needs (Minnesota’s government works extraordinarily well compared to California, although that isn’t much of a comparison).
Unfortunately, the two politicians that Minnesota is serving up this year are anything but progressive. Tim Pawlenty, the former governor, was at one point a pretty good leader. He was certainly not centrist, but he was a welcome respite from the antics that plagued wrestler now conspiracy theorist Jesse Ventura. As time went on, Pawlenty moved to the right, no doubt feeling the pressure of the 2008 presidential campaign and looking ahead to 2012. By the time he left, there was very little goodwill toward him.
The other candidate is Michelle Bachmann, and that needs no explanation.
Instead, the candidate that is coming from the center happens to hail from the most conservative state in the union. Jon Huntsman, Jr. is a towering candidate, if only voters would overlook his moderate record. Time wrote a fairly glowing profile of him, but ultimately voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will decide who to run against Obama. And apparently, they don’t like what they see.
It is telling that a moderate candidate with across-the-board strength in leadership positions, fluency in Mandarin and a track record of success cannot find succor within the Republican party. So he tried to tackle large issues like health care and the environment. Perhaps this isn’t surprising - Republicans made a point of bringing back styrofoam cups to the Capitol to prove how un-environmental they are.
Unfortunately, if the party wants to win, it has to get a plurality of the vote, and that means finding candidates who can pick up voters who chose Obama but would consider a middle-road candidate this time around. Huntsman is that leader, and it’s too bad he won’t get the chance to prove it.