Last Thursday, President Barack Obama released his American Jobs Act, a $447 billion package to stimulate job growth through public spending and the elimination of tax breaks for the wealthy.
When compared with the economic beliefs of leading Republican presidential candidates, who will undoubtedly criticize the president’s plan for increased government spending, an ideological divide emerges.
The GOP front-runners, notably Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, hold conservative positions on not just economic issues, but also social issues, including anti-gay rights and the denial of scientific evidence for global warming and evolution.
That being said, the GOP candidate who stands the best chance of winning the general election against Obama is currently polling in the single digits.
Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and ambassador to China, is a moderate Republican and — with almost every other GOP candidate churning out far-right rhetoric — has the best chance of wooing independent and even Democratic votes in the national election.
Mitt Romney used to be the most prominent candidate who could attract independent votes. But since Romney entered the race, he has repeatedly backtracked from his formerly moderate positions in an attempt to appease the GOP base, which has damaged his credibility among traditional voters.
Romney recently attacked Obama’s health care reform law, even though it’s modeled after the health care reform bill he passed in 2006 as Massachusetts’ governor.
His newly released jobs plan, his commitment to a no new taxes pledge, and his changing stance on abortion have also put Romney ideologically in line with his other conservative opponents.
Meanwhile, Huntsman’s credentials are as good as any Republican’s. He maintained budget surpluses in Utah and approval ratings of more than 80 percent, even with record tax cuts. The Pew Research Center named Utah the Best Managed State in America while under his control.
What makes Huntsman notable, though, is his centrism. He supports civil unions for same-sex couples and is “comfortable” with the health care law’s controversial individual mandate that requires citizens to purchase health insurance — something that has been widely unpopular among Republicans. Like Obama, he supports simplifying the tax system by removing loopholes that give cuts to the wealthy.
Perry and Bachmann’s ultra conservatism could currently win them the Republican nomination. However, when their contrasting ideologies come to the forefront of debate in the general election, many independents may think twice about voting for candidates with such conservative ideals, as many Americans did in light of Sarah Palin’s folksy yet fundamentalist rhetoric.
While the polls have yet to catch on, Huntsman has received attention from both sides of mainstream media. The Wall Street Journal called his jobs proposal “impressive as any to date in the GOP presidential field.” The Huffington Post labeled Huntsman as “simply too reasonable to be nominated.”
And therein may lay the problem. Huntsman is truly the lone moderate; as he is willing to compromise in a party overtaken by pledges and partisanship. Because of that, the Republican base will likely become too stubborn to stand behind its best hope for a Republican presidential victory in the 2012 election.
Nikolas DeCosta-Klipa is a sophomore journalism and politics major. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org