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120116 The End of a Good Campaign

The End of a Good Campaign

With regret, I removed my “Huntsman 2012” bumper sticker from my car today as a good campaign came to an end. When initial reports broke last night that former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman was ending his presidential campaign, my mood was melancholy.
I first supported Huntsman back in September, and occasionally since I have received complaints from those who think one should not back a candidate with low poll numbers. My response has been what it still is now: I have no regrets when, especially in a multi-candidate primary, I back whom I believe is best based on substance and strategy rather than mere early polls.
Besides, polls change, as they did here: Huntsman’s 17% finish in New Hampshire was a big improvement over his numbers six months ago. Unfortunately, though, even that success was not enough. The reality is that when fourteen candidates run, thirteen will lose. Those are the rules. We all knew that. Now the campaign moves on, but where I go in it remains unclear.
The Republican Party is adrift, and if Huntsman now cannot lead us in a course correction—as I believe he could have done—someone else must take that responsibility. The Party needs leadership. We need a foreign policy that is neither the overconfidence that determined our 2003 Iraq strategy nor the muddled ambivalence toward our 2011 Libya strategy. We need a genuine commitment to responsible constraints on deficit spending. We need a reemphasis on the Leave It to Beaver social conservativism that gives the Republican Party its heart and conscience. We need to recapture the goodness and honor that will cleanse us of inner darknesses like Birtherism and fights over leasing a house of worship incidentally somewhat near Ground Zero. We also simply need honest public officials.
I shall now look anew at the remaining candidates and make a decision based on these and other factors. In doing so, I retain my sense that the GOP is my home. The Democratic Party too has its very dark side with its near addiction to maintaining racial divisions, its knee-jerk dovish military policies, its libertine social attitudes, and its September 11 deniers.

Thankfully, of course, some Democrats have avoided part or all of these diseases, but so too have some Republicans avoided theirs. On a day like today, one takes a deep breath, reflects on the lay of the land, and is happy that the Republican Party is a place to call home. Sometime, that home will need a leader.