Carl Cannon makes a misguided attempt to defend Mitt Romney:
As governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, for example, Jon Huntsman was immensely popular — he won re-election with 78 percent of the vote — in one of the most conservative states in the nation. As a presidential candidate, he was metamorphosed into a closet left-winger merely by suggesting that human industrial activity might be having a deleterious effect on the atmosphere and that civil unions were an acceptable compromise to the gay marriage issue.
This description of Huntsman gets a number of things wrong. Huntsman adopted the positions on the environment and civil unions Cannon mentions many years before most people outside Utah knew who he was. Because he governed an overwhelmingly Republican state and had already won re-election, he had the political luxury of taking more liberal positions on certain issues, but this created problems for him later at the national level. At the time that Huntsman expressed support for a cap-and-trade scheme, it was a trendy idea that many Republican governors found appealing. Huntsman gained his early fawning media coverage by distancing himself rhetorically from Republicans in Congress, and he acquired an ill-fitting reputation as a “moderate” because of that.
What we saw from Huntsman as a presidential candidate was fairly different. Huntsman abandoned his previous cap-and-trade position once he started running, and put together a series of policy proposals that were designed to satisfy movement conservatives on almost every issue. Huntsman certainly pandered during his campaign (as virtually all candidates do), but it was never quite so desperate, transparent, and total as Romney’s complete reinvention of himself. Coming back to the question of Romney’s “core,” no one denies that all politicians are opportunistic and willing to say things they don’t really believe if that is what voters want to hear. What distinguishes Romney from the average politician is that he has taken both traits and exaggerated them more than almost any other contemporary politician. He doesn’t just trim his sails. He jumps from one boat to another, and then pretends that he is as true and constant as the north star.