But here’s what the dust-up missed. If you take all of what he said to me over some 90 minutes, it is all but certain that Jon Huntsman is not going to be a Republican much longer.
Yes, he has endorsed Mitt Romney for president, though his expression when he does so has all the spontaneous pleasure of the star of a hostage tape. He cites President Barack Obama’s failure to work the levers of power to accomplish change—intriguingly, he contrasts Obama not with a Republican president, but with Bill Clinton—and Romney’s understanding of the free market and job creation. (Huntsman was animated in scorning Republican candidates who called for a hard line on China or protective tariffs—notions that Romney has enthusiastically embraced.)
The real message he is carrying is that both parties–the “duopoly,” as he calls it—are paralyzed by polarization and inertia, and that the Republican Party in particular is pursuing an “unsustainable” course.
Why, I asked him, shouldn’t Republicans learn from their 2010 midterm victory that an unswerving opposition to Obama is politically profitable?
Because, he replied, “it’s unsustainable. It can’t last more than a cycle or two. ... With the political center hollowed out, the American people are going to say, who’s going to populate the center where you’ll get things done?”.....
And here’s what he said when a member of the audience posed this question to him: “Given the present direction and positions the party has taken ... is there room for people like you?”Well, he answered, “I’m sitting here as a Republican.” But after he talked with great enthusiasm about the rise of the unaffiliated voter and the challenge to the political duopoly, I posed one more question.
“Why do I get the feeling,” I asked him, “that if we have this conversation a couple of years from now, you will not be sitting here as a Republican?”
“Because,” he said with a smile, “you’re a good journalist.”
Flattery aside, the answer couldn’t have been clearer.