TPM reveals the presidential preferences of D.C. libertarians:
Libertarians in Washington are not happy about how the Republican primary is shaping up. Barring a miracle, there are two candidates with a decent shot at the nomination. Mitt Romney, the godfather of Obamacare, is not libertarians’ first choice. And they think Newt Gingrich, the new frontrunner, is even worse.
I don’t know about the “decent shot” part, but otherwise, so far, so good. Then there’s this:
“There’s a belief that the field represents a pre-Tea Party Republicanism,” said Michael D. Tanner, a senior research fellow at the Libertarian Cato Institute. It’s a crop of left-overs, he explains. Libertarians wanted Paul Ryan or Chris Christie.
Excuse me? As Daniel Larison puts it, “I don’t want to assume that the views expressed in this report are representative of libertarians or even libertarian policy wonks, but the idea that there were any libertarians interested in Paul Ryan and Chris Christie is baffling.”
If that baffles you, keep reading. TPM:
While less than perfect, libertarians are hoping for a Jon Huntsman resurgence to spare them from Newt and Mitt. “I think there is burgeoning interest in Jon Huntsman,” says [the Cato Institute’s David] Boaz, though perhaps “too late to matter.” While not a card-carrying libertarian, says Tanner, he possesses the right combination of a very conservative economic agenda and more moderate positions on foreign policy and social issues.
I’ll assume that’s a dangling modifier in the first sentence and Jon Huntsman is “less than perfect” (though, to be fair, so are libertarians). That’s an understatement, but set it aside for the moment. Go read the article. Notice whose name is conspicuously absent? Hint: he was once the Libertarian Party nominee for president, and he’s 16 points ahead of Jon Huntsman among likely Iowa caucus-goers.
It’s true that Huntsman breaks with the party on some individual foreign policy and social issues, but overall Huntsman is more conservative on social issues than almost anyone else in the field, and his “moderation” on foreign policy includes support for bombing Iran. It’s impressive how far out of their way some of these folks will go to avoid supporting the candidates with whom they agree on virtually everything.
These people live in and around D.C. They have nice, normal liberal and conservative friends whose tolerance for radicalism extends to attending a Cato policy briefing on school vouchers once a year. They have reputations to maintain. Jon Huntsman may be hungry for votes, but he sure ain’t weird.