Huntsman Must Change Strategies to Rise
by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund, Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 03:03:08 PM EST
Former Governor Huntsman has once again said he accepts the reality of climate change. He told ABC's Christiane Amanpour on Sunday: “Let me make it crystal clear. I’m on the side of science in this debate.”
He is now the only GOP candidate for the White House who stands by climate science. All the others have denied it from the start or changed their positions once they got in the race. Even Huntsman had a temporary lapse a few weeks ago, but he quickly cleared up any doubt that he sees climate change as a threat and believes humans have caused it.
Huntsman knows this position sounds reasonable to the moderate voters who will sway the presidential election. A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independents agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming.
But in the GOP primary circus, science gets no respect and Huntsman gets no love. Nearly every other candidate has been the flavor of the week, except for Huntsman. How can he finally get his day in the sun? By reminding voters his is a stable, consistent leader who doesn’t flip.
Huntsman hasn’t captured the limelight yet because he looks too much like Romney. He is another conservative – but not Tea Party, Mormon governor with a background in business. At a time when voters and party leaders are looking for the anti-Romney—even former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said of Romney “the brother just can’t bake the cake”—you can’t win by being more Romney than Romney.
Huntsman has to distinguish himself, and he can do that by emphasizing the very thing his opponent lacks: steadfast conviction.
Take the issue of climate change. In June Romney told a crowd: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that… And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.” But then Romney’s commitment to scientific fact went the way of his positions on health care reform and collective bargaining: it flipped. In October 2011, he said: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
Huntsman, meanwhile, acknowledged the threat of climate change when he was governor of Utah and he acknowledges it now that he is a candidate for the White House. He holds his convictions for more than a news cycle and that counts for something these days. Our country is in upheaval, and voters are wondering where the adults are. Huntsman is an adult. Whether you agree him or not, he represents exactly what he always has. And in the face of a shifting economic and an uncertain future, stable, even-keeled leadership will sound good to a lot of voters.
But Huntsman can’t wait for voters to come to him; he’s got to do a better job of reaching out to them. If Newt Gingrich has stepped into the ring before you got your turn, you know your campaign strategy isn’t working. Huntsman should change it by emphasizing constancy.