by Patrick Appel
[Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman] probably assumes that the GOP will spend the next few years banging rocks together in the wilderness, throwing moderates like Colin Powell out of the party, and trying to wind the clock back to the early 1980s while the rest of the country moves on. He probably assumes that he's already established himself as "a different kind of conservative," that the domestic policy fights he'll face as governor will be frustrating and possibly fruitless, and that the GOP will need a few more electoral thrashings before it is ready to buy what he's selling.
What's more, he probably assumes that, while the rest of the GOP tears itself apart in naval-gazing fights about the meaning of "true conservatism," he can go off and pad his resume with several years of experience managing America's largest (and increasingly, its most important) bilateral relationship, and that when he returns in, say, 2014, not only will the GOP primary voters not punish him, they'll welcome him as a practical, reform-minded leader, attuned to the problems of the 21st century, who puts the national interest above partisan politics -- that is, just the kind of guy to lead them to victory in 2016.
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