Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. president and thrown his support behind Mitt Romney.
“Over the last six months, I have seen the best of America. I’ve seen it in the spirit of our entrepreneurs, the courage of our veterans, and the unyielding optimism of our young people. I saw it in China 10,000 miles away, meeting with dissidents who had been tortured and beaten, but who drew strength from our nation’s values – our openness, our freedoms,” the former ambassador to China said.
“Half a world away, they could see America’s light. That is the power our country still represents. I will never stop fighting for America, and I will continue to put her welfare first, ahead of any partisan or special interest.”
In losing Huntsman, the primary process has lost one of its most sensible candidates on U.S. foreign policy, including toward Asia. While his rivals indulged in frustrating, sometimes troubling grandstanding for the conservative base (think Newt Gingrich saying the Palestinians are an “invented people” or Rick Santorum’s apparent eagerness to start dropping bombs on Iran), Huntsman was brave enough to push back on issues such as global warming.
But, as a number of commentators have noted, it was probably this refusal to pander to the Republican base that meant he failed to gain any traction in the primaries.
“Despite the attention his candidacy received from the Chattering Class and despite the help from a Super PAC financed in part by his wealthy father, Huntsman never took off. A big reason was tone. He was the only GOP presidential candidate who never adopted the Tea Party’s rhetoric. Besides Ron Paul, he was the only one calling for the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan. And he was the only one calling for civility in politics.”
All this leaves Romney as the only sensible choice left in terms of foreign policy. Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns probably wasn’t far off the mark when he described Romney and Huntsman as the only candidates with the “global IQ, good judgment and right international experience” to help the United States confront “one of the most difficult international agendas we have ever encountered.”
Certainly, Team Romney has assembled a generally sensible, thoughtful team, and his foreign policy proposals so far shouldn’t frighten too many people. It seems like a low hurdle to clear, but with Huntsman gone he’s the only one that really does.