With conservatives feeling disappointed at the lack of 'good choices' for President this year, attention has turned from the perceived Big 3 on the Republican side to other possibilities. One name that has come up is Duncan Hunter. Today for example, Captain Ed described him thus:
That's why we see people supporting Duncan Hunter as an alternative to Rudy: respected, sincere, intelligent, and reliably conservative on the issues most dear to the conservative causes. And Hunter is running, although without the star power and the fundraising capabilities of Giuliani. We haven't elected a president directly out of the House in long memory, and usually those campaigns are little more than vanity tours (Bob Dornan comes to mind here). However, Hunter is much more thoughtful and credible than most, and if he could find a way to break into the top tier, he probably would garner the base support that would undo the triumvirate of Rudy, Romney, and McCain. Mike Huckabee might be another such candidate.
Hunter is an admirable guy, who has been a conservative stalwart in the House, but he has a comparable problem to Giuliani. He attracts the support of several parts of the conservative base, but probably can't unify it. In the case of Hunter, his fatal weakness will be his inability to win the support of open-market supporters - from the Wall Street Journal to the Club for Growth.
While Hunter has generally favored low taxes and balanced budgets, he's consistently opposed free trade and supported managed trade. On foreign policy, he's a lot closer to Lou Dobbs than to George Bush. He voted against NAFTA, CAFTA, and membership in the World Trade Organization. He cosponsored legislation disapproving the proposed purchase of Unocal by CNOOC. He was a leader in the move to block Dubai Ports World from becoming the manager of a number of US ports, and he was a lead backer of legislation to make it harder for foreign companies to invest in the US. The Wall Street Journal criticized him on this effort, in an editorial entitled 'The New Protectionists.'
Most recently, Hunter has pushed for the US to find China guilty of currency manipulation, and slap tariffs on imported Chinese goods. In fact, his first Presidential campaign ad focuses on China's 'cheating' on trade:
Hunter sounds good, but his economic nationalism ignores the fact that no nation benefits more from free and open trade than the United States. With regard to China specifically, American consumers benefit from having the option to purchase Chinese goods. The Cato Institute has been highly critical of Hunter's approach to China trade.
Check out the Club for Growth's unflattering assessment of Hunter's voting record as well:
Since Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is apparently going to explore the possibility of running for president in 2008, I thought I'd dig up some of his roll call votes. Like most Republicans, he's strong on tax cuts, but he's been part of the big government spending spree of the last 6 years. He also has a protectionist streak in him. Here are some of the more troubling votes:
NO on NAFTA
YES on No Child Left Behind
YES on Sarbanes-Oxley
YES on the 2003 Medicare Drug Benefit
NO on CAFTA
YES on 2005 Highway Bill
YES on the 527 bill (like most Republicans, he flip-flopped, having first voted NO on McCain-Feingold)
Hunter also went 0 for 19 on the Flake anti-pork amendments.
Despite being a member of the Republican Study Committee, Hunter frequently votes NO on their fiscally conservative annual budgets (2006, 2005, 2003...)
We gave him a 49% on the 2005 Club for Growth scorecard. That places him 187th within the House GOP conference, out of roughly 230 members.
National Taxpayers Union shows a more telling trend. He was strong in the early 1990s, getting "B's" and one "A", but as time went by, like most politicians, his score dropped. For the past few years, he's been getting "C's".
If Hunter gets some traction and cracks the top tier of contenders, his dubious record on open markets will get more unwelcome attention. And since he can't unify the conservatives any more than Giuliani can, there's no way he can make it to 'contender' status.