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MONITOR EDITORIAL

Huntsman is the best choice for GOP

There comes a time for many politicians when they gaze at their reflection and see a president. The reflection is dazzling and often beguiling enough to momentarily blind a segment of the electorate to reality. But most people with presidential ambitions learn, usually the hard way, that they were duped by a funhouse mirror that minimized their limitations and maximized their potential. Most of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer, are in that group.

New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters who want to field a candidate with broad appeal and the capability and credibility to have a shot at beating President Obama have three choices: putative frontrunner Mitt Romney, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and diplomat and two-term Utah governor Jon Huntsman. The choice of Huntsman should be clear.

With Gingrich, voters would get an unpredictable, unprincipled nominee and, should he be elected, a white-knuckle four years of an imperial presidency. With Romney, they wouldn't know who they would get: the moderate Mitt who was once pro-choice, in favor of a health-care mandate, a supporter of the auto industry bailout and a believer that human activity was contributing to climate change - or the newly conservative Romney, who opposes abortion, claims the reason for climate change is unknown, opposes a health insurance mandate and claims that bailing out Detroit was a mistake.

Huntsman, a consistent but never doctrinaire conservative, would present the greatest challenge to Obama. If elected, he would provide mature, informed and steady leadership. He has a track record as governor of bringing all sides together to create an economic climate that helped his state prosper. And he has experience garnered while serving four presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. Combine the foreign policy experience of all the other candidates in the race and Huntsman would top it. He has played the game at its highest level, serving first as ambassador to Singapore, then as a trade representative on behalf of the United States at the United Nations and, at Obama's request, as the United States' ambassador to China.

Huntsman accepted his posting to China because, he says, as a patriotic American, "when your president asks you to serve, you do it." Such willingness to put the good of the country over party considerations is exactly what's missing in politics today. As ambassador Huntsman walked a fine line between working to improve U.S.-China relations and trade while pushing China toward greater respect for human rights and freedom. He succeeded in doing both.

We disagree with Huntsman on a host of issues, including abortion, support for civil unions over same-sex marriage, the need to repeal the landmark health care reform act, and his desire to extend the Bush tax cuts. But we found him, despite his calm demeanor, to be a proponent of bold, hard-nosed reforms that voters, no matter what their party, should consider. Huntsman wants to rewrite the nation's absurd tax code and eliminate all deductions, both personal and corporate. That would allow rates to be lowered and, in his words, "clean out the swamp" of lobbyists whose job is to maintain and extend tax breaks for those who can afford to hire them. He would levy a fee on the six big banks that control a dangerously large share of the economy - a fee so high that they would be forced them to sell off their subsidiaries, shrink and no longer be "too big to fail."

Among candidates too often seen as hostile to science, Huntsman is a believer in its power to explain phenomena like climate change. In a party seen as hostile to the judiciary, he believes justices should have lifetime tenure to insulate them from the political pressure.

As one with years of experience in business, he understands the need to invest in education to develop a workforce unmatched in its ability to innovate and create. And he is the only Republican candidate willing to talk honestly about the need to cut military spending in a responsible way to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Huntsman's depth of experience, maturity, sincerity and ability to work toward a common goal with political opponents make him the Republicans' best choice to face President Obama in 2012.

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