In my latest column for The Daily, I argue that if Jon Huntsman believes the GOP needs to move to the center, he should put his money where his mouth is and launch a new organization devoted to supporting moderate Republicans and providing them with intellectual ammunition. The central problem facing GOP moderates has long been a lack of ideological coherence, though of course many individual moderates have been creative policy thinkers. As Ross Douthat and others have noted, Huntsman doesn’t have much of a future as a presidential candidate, as there are plenty of strong potential Republican candidates waiting in the wings. Rather shockingly, his own former communications director has badmouthed the guy for his lack of charisma. But that doesn’t preclude him from becoming an institution-builder.
One relevant question, which I never explicitly raise in my column, is whether or not Huntsman is sufficiently public-spirited to bother with what will likely prove a thankless, expensive, and very time-consuming task. My understanding is that his father was reluctant to devote resources to a pro-Huntsman Super PAC, and perhaps he would be similarly reluctant to support a Huntsman-led equivalent of the late Democratic Leadership Council. Huntsman might also considering taking a leadership role in an organization like the Ripon Society, which I strongly suspect would welcome his attention and guidance. But Huntsman might prefer leading a happily obscure life with his wife and young children, which would be entirely defensible.