Jon Huntsman Puts the Moderate Seal of Approval on Trump

Jon Huntsman
An unlikely early fan of the idea of uniting behind Donald Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump has been given a variety of ideological labels ranging from “radical” to “fascist” to plain old-fashioned “unprincipled.” But even though he’s drawn a decent number of self-identified moderate votes in Republican primaries, moderate is not a word that would seem to fit him, which could certainly be a problem in a general election. So along comes hypermoderate Republican Jon Huntsman with the beginnings of a makeover.

Huntsman, you may recall, is the former GOP governor of Utah who transitioned from being Barack Obama’s ambassador to China to a clumsy and unsuccessful 2012 presidential candidate who imagined there was ample turf to seize to Mitt Romney’s left. He subsequently surfaced as a co-chair (along with former Democrat Evan Bayh and former whatever Joe Lieberman) for the No Labels organization, the centrist group that aims at coming up with a policy agenda that a critical mass of Republican and Democratic office-holders can theoretically embrace.  

Whatever you think of No Labels — be it brave transpartisans, elite austerians, or naïve magical thinkers — it’s hard to imagine Donald Trump fitting into their plans. Yet here’s Huntsman:

We’ve had enough intraparty fighting. Now’s the time to stitch together a winning coalition,” said Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah. “And it’s been clear almost from the beginning that Donald Trump has the ability to assemble a nontraditional bloc of supporters. … The ability to cut across traditional party boundaries — like ‘80, ‘92 and 2008 — will be key, and Trump is much better positioned to achieve that.”

Hmmm. A “nontraditional bloc of supporters.” Is Huntsman telling us Trump is a bipartisan sorta guy who doesn’t need to “move to the center” because he’s already there? Wonder what Huntsman’s 2012 chief strategist John Weaver, now in a similar role with John Kasich, would have to say about that. For that matter, what would Huntsman’s fellow China hands think? Probably nothing positive. 

Huntsman Puts Moderate Seal of Approval on Trump