By Jon Winsor
Mitt Romney has been trying to do the impossible. He’s been trying to claim a science-based position on climate change and be a tea-party friendly candidate who can compete with Michele Bachmann. His recent populist growls to keep his base happy seem like attempts to do this.
Now comes Jon Huntsman, who is clearly trying to scoop up the non-tea-party vote. As the Politico reports on Huntsman’s recent speech to Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP):
“Conservation is conservative,” Huntsman said. “I’m not ashamed to be a conservationist. I also believe that science should be driving our discussion on climate change….”
Apparently, this position has gotten some attention from someone Chris is familiar with Steve Milloy and Junkscience.com:
Outside the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, climate change skeptics from JunkScience.com had a digital billboard mounted on the back of a pickup truck circling the block. The display called the group “Rinos for EPA Protection,” and labeled Huntsman “Utah’s Al Gore.”
Interestingly, there is another front that Huntsman has been a “fighting moderate” on: the debt ceiling crisis. Romney has studiedly refused to make committed statements on the debt ceiling, leaving those statements to the likes of Michele Bachmann. Dave Weigel (Slate’s reporter on movement conservative politics) wrote that a kind of denialism has been affecting how the debt ceiling issue has been moving forward:
The single biggest factor in yesterday’s surprise delay of the Boehner plan vote was Republican disbelief that a bond downgrade would be that much of a problem. Everything else flowed from that. It became possible for conservatives to game out the politics of delay because some number of them thought it would be worth holding up the process through August 2nd to get more concessions. (Jim DeMint has said that explicitly.)
…Republicans still have a problem as they put together votes. They haven’t done the legwork convincing their base that something with such a scary ring — “raising the debt ceiling!” — is actually necessary. For all the concessions they’ve gotten, and they are massive, they are not yet past this. They’re being egged on by their activist base and by the Republicans who appeal to them. Jon Huntsman was the only presidential candidate who endorsed Boehner’s plan. Did you notice?
Huntsman has not been polling well, but it’s possible that he could pose a challenge to Mitt Romney’s attempt to straddle his party’s populist and non-populist constituencies: