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Romney Now Lacks Opposition

Heights Columnist

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

And so it continues.

On Monday, Jon Huntsman became the third major Republican nominee hopeful to drop his bid to compete against President Barack Obama this November, following suit behind the likes of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, both of whom called it quits in the past month and a half. Unfortunately for Republicans, however, this doesn't just mark the weeding out of another pitifully unqualified candidate—it marks the withdrawal of the last, and perhaps only, sane and sensible runner in this mad race.

After garnering a mere 17 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, some 20 percentage points behind Mitt Romney and six points behind Ron Paul, Huntsman decided that the game was up.

He had totally neglected to campaign in Iowa, so he had a predictably dismal performance in the primary there, winning a mere fraction of one percentage point. His unwillingness to pander to the evangelical masses, a strategy that seems to be working quite well for Rick Santorum, also meant that failure in South Carolina was a foregone conclusion. If he wanted to stay afloat, Huntsman needed a strong showing in the Granite State, which is not how things played out.

As the former, wildly popular governor of Utah and former ambassador to China (under President Obama, no less) and as the one candidate who never really seemed to enjoy shoving his own foot in his mouth, Huntsman seemed like a legitimate and well-qualified alternative to Romney. The libertarian Cato Institute praised him for his tax policies, giving him a "B" rating on their governor report card, a higher rating than Romney had earned during his first term as governor of Massachusetts.

But he was also a believer in evolution and global warming and a supporter of civil unions between same-sex couples, none of which a large proportion of the Republican base want anything to do with.

Huntsman was also not big on curbing spending—anathema to fiscal conservatives—and, in fact, per capita spending in Utah increased by more than 10 percent during his tenure as governor, one of the highest rates of increase in the nation.

In light of the recent debt-ceiling crisis in which the inability of our Congress to reach across the aisle nearly led to a default on our national debt, one would have thought that Huntsman's centrist policies might have given him a certain aura of electability, something which the remaining candidates visibly lack. But either those who have been voting in the Republican primaries are suffering from collective amnesia, or bipartisanship simply counts for nothing in their minds.

Gingrich hasn't been making much noise of late, and Paul has rightfully earned the title of perennial loser, so it looks as though we're left with a battle between Romney and Santorum. And unless by some perverted, abhorrent, nightmarish twist of fate Santorum ends up the nominee, it will in all likelihood be Romney who brings home the bacon.

Whether or not any of them will be able to take down Obama is still an entirely separate matter, of course, but with Huntsman having fallen by the wayside, the remaining contenders have a better shot at availing themselves of the opportunity to do so.

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