With the New Hampshire presidential primary fast approaching, it might be time to look at two of the Republican candidates who’ve often drawn comparisons in the mainstream media. Namely, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and 2008 GOP runner-up Mitt Romney. The rap on both men is very similar, i.e. both are technocratic, not very inspiring-yet seemingly competent-moderates who have extreme difficulties rallying the Republican faithful. And while Mr. Huntsman has increased the pace of his attacks on Governor Romney in recent days, you can’t help but notice the similarities between the two candidates.
While many conservative pundits have attempted-unsuccessfully in my view-to argue that Huntsman is an unabashed conservative, you can’t help but get the impression that supporters of past presidential campaigns by Pete McCloskey, John Anderson, Arlen Specter, and Lynn Martin, among many other liberal politicians who sought the GOP nod, said the very same thing about their preferred candidate. The fact remains that Huntsman-much like Mitt Romney, who garnered only one percent of voters who labeled conservatism as their top priority in the Iowa caucuses-appeals predominately to those Republicans who are outliers within the party. They both garner plaudits from institutional left wing media organs and earn scorn from right wing opinion shapers, although Huntsman’s seemingly conscious effort to attack conservative sacred cows, and like defeated presidential candidate John McCain-one of Romney’s newest supporters-gratuitously insult conservatives, no doubt makes him a preferable opponent of President Obama to people like Stephen Colbert.
Granted, there are some differences, both substantive and superficial, between the two men that require acknowledgement. While Mitt Romney’s rhetorical bellicosity towards China has been much remarked upon during this campaign, Huntsman-reflecting his history as a diplomat-has gone out of his way to allay concerns that a trade war between the PRC and the United States is imminent. Another distinction between the two is their approach with respect to national security and foreign policy issues. A perfect illustration of how they differ can be found in this exchange between the men over what should be done in the Afghanistan theater of war. But perhaps the greatest divide between the two candidates lies in an issue that has thus far escaped critical scrutiny, which is to say immigration.
While Huntsman has adopted the line of the open borders lobby-including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose leadership has slandered any patriotic American who embraces sensible immigration policies even as Mormons die as a result-Romney has thus far espoused one of the toughest stances against illegal immigration to be found among Republican challengers to Barack Obama. He has pledged to veto the DREAM Act, opposed sanctuary cities, supported E-Verify, and highlighted the importance of employer sanctions, which everyone recognizes as the keystone of any successful regime of immigration enforcement in this country. It was the relentless criticism of Romney-and to a lesser extent, Michele Bachmann-that torpedoed the presidential aspirations of Rick Perry, which we can all be grateful for. And perhaps most impressively of all, when pressed to explain how he would deal with illegal aliens who remain in this country despite stepped-up enforcement efforts, he gave the perfect answer.
Even so, there are good arguments to be made against Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy from a patriotic immigration reform perspective. Beyond the accusation that his tough stance against illegal immigration is merely a cynical political ploy-an accusation whose refutation is not helped by gaffes like these-there is Romney’s distressing support for H1-B visas and legal immigration mechanisms that are not only rife with fraud but existentially harmful to American citizens. However, even when you take into account these severe limitations, Mitt Romney still can be said to have a far superior record on issues of immigration and border security than his fellow Mormon ex-governor, Jon Huntsman. Whether good enough is good enough is a question that Republican voters will have to answer for themselves.