Huntsman and ‘the M-word’

Jon Huntsman, the Obama administration’s former ambassador to China, kicks off a five-day campaign swing through New Hampshire today. He hasn’t officially launched his presidential bid yet — he intends to run as a Republican — but the Washington Post notes that he’ll be “testing whether his moderate brand of politics can find a place in today’s Republican Party.”

One of the interesting angles to this is watching Huntsman’s team insist that his moderate brand of politics is really just a mirage.

In a likely presidential bid, he would bring with him a political resume punctuated by his stint as President Obama’s ambassador to China and loaded with centrist positions on immigration, cap-and-trade climate legislation and gay rights.

That could be an uneasy fit in a GOP primary season that is already pushing candidates to the right. So much so that Huntsman’s aides reject the suggestion that he is a moderate — one called it the “M-word” — and describe the former Utah governor as a mainstream conservative with a solid record of antiabortion legislation and tax cuts.

The fact that a major Republican presidential campaign is actively concerned about the “M-word” is a sign of the times, in and of itself.

But Huntsman’s record is likely to prove tough to spin. He supported Obama’s stimulus package — indeed, he agreed with liberals who wanted it to be bigger — and put the money to good use in Utah; he endorsed the TARP bank bailout; he supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, he supported cap-and-trade and believes global warming is real; he’s described President Obama as a “remarkable leader,” and by some accounts, he even expressed support for the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans consider the worst law in American history.

Oh, and he’s spent the last two years as a member of the Obama administration.

First, I have a very hard time imagining how Republican primary voters could possibly support a presidential candidate with this background. Second, by 21st century standards, Huntsman practically defines “the M-word.”

Update: It looks like ThinkProgress was thinking along the same lines (but my post went up five minutes earlier!).