Former Utah Governor and US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman -- a prospective 2012 presidential contender -- addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC earlier today. Since he first began testing the waters nationally, Huntsman has faced a torrent of conservative criticism (on issues ranging from global warming to the "stimulus" to civil unions for gays). If he chooses to run, he'll likely be perceived as an establishment/moderate figure by many within the Republican base -- and will grapple with the associated challenges.
Although many primary voters will continue to harbor entirely reasonable questions about his record and stated policy preferences, I wonder if Huntsman may have won over a few skeptics with his remarks this afternoon. Huntsman positioned himself as a champion of pro-life principles (persuasively, in my view), and a strong advocate for individual and economic liberty. Weaving several compelling personal anecdotes into his remarks, Huntsman made a strong case for the value of every human life, and emphasized the singluar strength and moral goodness of our country and her values. The former governor may not be every conservative's cup of tea, but I thought he distinguished himself as a serious and thoughtful player today. His speech wasn't brimming with easy applause lines, but it was met with a standing ovation upon its conclusion. Also note prominent social conservative Ralph Reed's eyebrow-raisingly generous introduction of Huntsman as "a good conservative, and a great friend:"
At the other end of the 2012 GOP presidential spectrum is Michele Bachmann, a vocal conservative, whose red meat-laden address electrified the crowd. Her speech was repeatedly interrupted by applause, including this passage about repealing Obamacare:
Next year will be a time for choosing for Republicans. For the moment, though, I'm encouraged that the emerging field includes both Gov. Huntsman's slightly understated style and Rep. Bachmann's energy and passion.