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We all know Jon Huntsman is an unorthodox Republican, a wealthy moderate who was quite popular as governor of Utah but has since seen his numbers there drop. He simply doesn’t have the charisma or aggressive conservatism that Tea Party types crave. And buried in the latest New York are some of the best nuggets of evidence yet that he’s more comfortable in the offices of Esquire than Reason:

Huntsman’s uneasiness with affixing a conservative label to himself has been evident from the start. On his first trip to New Hampshire, in late May, he insisted instead on the achingly anodyne “pragmatic ­problem-solver.” A month later, when he visited New York on a fund-raising swing, I asked who his political heroes were. ­“Reagan was certainly part of that,” Huntsman said, though he paraphrased Dutch’s ringing anti-statism as a commitment to “making sure government never exceeds boundaries and never gets out of control from a cost standpoint.” He also mentioned Nixon: “I mean, here’s a guy who created the EPA.”

Another possibility is that, in trying to walk a thin line between conservatism and moderation, Huntsman finds himself tangled up in his shoelaces. In our meeting at his house, I asked about a comment he’d made in 2008 warning the GOP about being perceived as “anti-science” regarding climate change. “All I’m saying is, we ought to show a little respect for science generally,” he answered. So you believe the planet is getting hotter? “I didn’t say that.” I’m asking you. “It’s not what I believe. I read science. Established bodies of scientists have spoken out … and I respect what [they] have to say.” You respect it, or you ? “I’m not here to talk about that,” he said, sounding slightly flustered, but then found his footing. “I respect it, and I happen to believe what they’ve concluded.” Phew.

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