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Huntsman, best candidate for a third party

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
  • LZ Granderson is upset with Obama, but feels trapped by the field of GOP candidates
  • Jon Huntsman is not "out of his league," he says, look at his achievements as governor
  • Just like Ross Perot was a real alternative in 1992, he writes, Huntsman could be the same
  • Granderson: Republicans underestimate Huntsman; he should run as an independent

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, has been named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and and a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on CNN Newsroom Tuesdays at 9 a.m. ET.

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- As a voter, aren't you tired of feeling as if you don't really have a choice?

Primaries have an assortment of personalities to sort through early on, but at the end of the day, the general election often forces us into a this-or-that, the lesser-of-two-evils scenario.

Technically that scenario is still a choice, but I bet if you went to an all-you-can-eat buffet and they only served mashed potatoes and mashed potatoes with gravy, you would want your money back.

And when I look at some of the decisions President Obama has made, that's exactly what I want, my money back.

But then I look at the field of Republican candidates and I just feel trapped, as our election process has become less about which candidate you prefer and more like which limb you want to cut off.

The only GOP candidate I find myself wanting to hear more from is Jon Huntsman, who, when I last checked, finished a hair below Lady Gaga and a handful of rocks in the latest Gallup poll.

"He's a nice guy, but he's out of his league," said Bob List, a former Nevada governor and GOP strategist.

Is Huntsman a charismatic politician?


But wow -- a former governor who oversaw the biggest tax cut in his state's history, maintained a surplus in the budget, speaks fluent Chinese and is a talented enough musician to play on stage with REO Speedwagon is deemed "out of his league." But Rick Perry, the dude who got a "D" in economics and brags about creating more minimum wage jobs, many without benefits, than any other governor is not?

I don't know what kind of league List is talking about, but it sounds nuts to me.

It's those kinds of insider statements that have me reminiscing about the free-wheeling Ross Perot.

True, the 1992 independent candidate didn't win. He finished third behind winner Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. But man was he fun. He didn't have to deal with the Lists in his party, and because of that, the nearly 20 million people who voted for him didn't feel as trapped.

Think about it: Perot captured nearly 19% of the popular vote, more than 50% of them independents. This was at a time in which no one really paid attention to independent voters. But in 2008, independent voters were credited with being the difference makers, and today the big GOP question is whether a social conservative in the primary can appeal to moderates and independents in the general.

Huntsman's showing a bit more personality now, and he is unveiling a jobs package ahead of Obama and Mitt Romney. But the reality is, it doesn't matter. He effectively eliminated his chances of making conservatives swoon, and thus winning the GOP nomination, when he tweeted that he believes in evolution and global warming.

But in closing the GOP door, he opened the independent window. It would seem that if Huntsman is still serious about being the next president of the United States, then instead of trying to win over the social conservatives who never liked him anyway, he should reboot his campaign and run as an independent.

Huntsman: Why I'm better than Romney

Let the Romneys and Perrys and Bachmanns slug it out and spend the next 16 months addressing voters who are not happy with Democrats or Republicans -- which is likely to be a fairly high number considering only 39% of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing and just 13% of them like Congress.

One of the reasons why Obama continues to be in a virtual tie in the polls with Perry and Romney isn't because his economic policies are stellar, but because a lot of voters are concerned about the theocracy and overall influence of the tea party Republicans who have proven to be a group of folks not very interested in compromise.

Or science.

So even though independent voters may have questions about Obama's ability to help the economy, and they may agree with some of the fiscal talking points of his opponents, when given the choice between him and, say, a candidate who wants to make abortions illegal, or discriminates against gays or Muslims, well he becomes a lot more appealing.

And that my friend, is the reason why the elections are technically a choice, but don't feel like one.

When voters are forced between what they believe is right for the country and their civil rights or the civil rights of others they're not really weighing legislative options, they're deciding which limb to cut off.

At least for a moment Perot brought another option. Even if you felt he wouldn't win, at least he didn't spend his entire campaign regurgitating partisan talking points or trying to prove himself to be the most conservative or progressive option. I'm not saying he was the best person for the job -- and as I recall, he said some crazy stuff too -- but he was there.

Like Perot I don't know if Huntsman is the best person for the job, but what I do know is compare his on-the-job performance with the rest of field, and you will see he is not out of his league.

He's just playing for the wrong team.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.