The State, the largest newspaper in the South Carolina, endorsed Jon Huntsman today:
You’d think that even if they don’t like it, those on the extremes would respect the fact that those of us in the sensible center decide general elections — and seek out a candidate who appeals to us. But the unhealthy demand for ideological purity obscures a hopeful fact about the GOP presidential field: There are actually two sensible, experienced grownups. And while Mr. Romney is far more appealing than any of the other choices, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is more principled, has a far more impressive resume and offers a significantly more important message. …
Mr. Huntsman is a true conservative, with a record and platform of bold economic reform straight out of the free-market bible, but he’s a realist, whose goal is likewise to get things done. Under his leadership, Utah led the nation in job creation, and the Pew Center on the States ranked it the best-managed state in the nation. …
We don’t agree with all of Mr. Huntsman’s positions; for but one example, he championed one of the nation’s biggest private-school voucher programs. And with George Will calling him the most conservative candidate and The Wall Street Journal editorial page endorsing his tax plan, independent voters might find less to like about his positions than, say, Mr. Romney’s or Newt Gingrich’s.
What makes him attractive are the essential values that drive his candidacy: honor and old-fashioned decency and pragmatism. As he made clear Wednesday to a room packed full of USC students on the first stop of his “Country First” tour, his goal is to rebuild trust in government, and that means abandoning the invective and reestablishing the political center.
In the general elections in 2008 and 2004, The State endorsed John McCain and George W. Bush respectively, so, while I’m not familiar with their usual editorial slant, it doesn’t appear that this endorsement is on par with the Boston Globe endorsement Huntsman received shortly before the New Hampshire primary, which may have been somewhat of a mixed blessing.
Republicans are debating Romney’s record at Bain and how many jobs he created. But with a stubbornly high S.C. unemployment rate currently at 9.9 percent, is there really any candidate in this primary field who could be better trusted on that front than Romney?
He has as much or more executive experience as any of his rivals. As a Republican governor in a liberal state, he showed the ability to pass important public policy under challenging circumstances, and he helped erase a projected $3 billion deficit.
Some voters in Saturday’s primary will surely question Romney’s conservative credentials, and it’s true that some of his opponents are to the right of him. But while Romney’s, er, evolving positions make it hard to know precisely where he stands on all issues, he’s no leftist, fiscally nor socially. His policy stances aren’t wildly different from his challengers, and he is not running to the left of previous GOP nominees John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole or George H.W. Bush.