Commentary Magazine


Jon Huntsman 2.0?

Jon Huntsman struck a much more serious tone today at the Heritage Foundation–a tone that seemed designed finally to match his demeanor to his supporters’ description of him as a “statesman.”

The part of the speech and question-and-answer session in which this was most apparent was in Huntsman’s discussion of climate change. This topic was part of the early derailment of Huntsman’s candidacy, when he struck a condescending, taunting tone toward his rivals, even though–as today’s speech made clear–his position on climate change is identical in substance to that of Mitt Romney and nearly identical to that of Newt Gingrich.

Huntsman said he deferred to scientists on the science of climate change, but made it clear that the policy prescriptions have to make sense too. He warned against unilaterally disarming the American economy, especially if such action would not be taken in concert with China. He sensibly dismissed the idea that a scientific consensus is the same as undeniable proof, notably in light of the recent revelations that the climate science community has been far from immune from corruption, blacklisting, and punishing dissent.

Huntsman was asked by Talking Points Memo if he is “flip-flopping” on the subject. “I think the onus is on the scientific community to… provide more clarity,” he responded.

Also noticeable was the lack of puns, pop culture references, and cheesy jokes that have been staples of Huntsman’s public appearances since the beginning of the campaign. Huntsman looks the part of a president when he eschews the schmaltzy slogans in favor of reasoned policy discussion–at which Huntsman clearly excels.

If this is a preview of what viewers can expect in Huntsman’s upcoming one-on-one debate with Gingrich, this is more bad news for Romney. The Jon Huntsman who appeared at the Heritage Foundation this afternoon will appeal to New Hampshire voters. In a fluid race, Huntsman may be on the verge of shaking things up yet again, if only to chip away at others’ leads and introduce some more parity into the polls.

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