Hopes that Mitt Romney’s backbone shortage and post-modern way with the facts might lead to his getting less-than-hagiographic media coverage took a big hit with Roger Simon’s latest Politico column, which is more or less a recitation of Romney-campaign talking points about the struggle for the Republican nomination. Most of the political analysis seems right to me: Gingrich and Perry could have been real threats to Romney, while the other clowns, including Santorum, never were and never could be.

But my jaw dropped when I read this sentence:

Santorum was the only “un-surged” non-Romney guy left (except for Jon Huntsman, who is not competing in Iowa and is probably in the wrong party).

How’s that again? Jon Huntsman is in the wrong party insofar as he’s a reasonably sane and decent human being rather than a hater like Santorum, a snake-oil salesman like Paul, or a human pretzel like Romney. He’s an old-fashioned conservative Bob Taft Republican, a breed just as extinct as the liberal Rockefeller Republican. The modern GOP has no place for him.

But Simon seems to be implying that Huntsman ought to be a Democrat. That’s an insane thing to say. It’s true that someone with Huntsman’s beliefs and values might wind up voting for Obama over Romney because Romney, and the party he heads, have become so dangerous and so despicable. But Huntsman, a natural-born plutocrat, is a friend of the plutocracy. He’s taken the Norquist no-taxes pledge. He likes the Ryan budget. In political terms, he’s an extremist, even though his personality seems closer to Obama’s than to those of his GOP rivals. But Obama’s temperate personality doesn’t make him a Republican, and Huntsman’s temperance doesn’t make him a Democrat, or even a RINO.

I agree with George Will (not an everyday occurrence) in thinking Huntsman the most conservative of the current GOP candidates, and perhaps the the most electable. I’m grateful that the Republican primary electorate sees what Simon sees rather than what Will and I see.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.