Conservative scholar floats Jon Huntsman as Speaker replacement

Norm Ornstein offers the unlikely suggestion that Huntsman should replace John Boehner

Published December 26, 2012 5:58PM (EST)

Norm Ornstein, a scholar for the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, suggests that there is a possibility that John Boehner could be ousted as Speaker of the House, and, if he is, that Republicans should look beyond the House for a replacement. Namely, Jon Huntsman.

Writing in the Washington Post, Ornstein theorizes that "If 17 Republicans vote for someone other than Boehner, and he falls short of an absolute majority of all the votes cast, the House will be thrown into turmoil — no elected speaker, and the prospect of additional ballots and a whole lot of intrigue before the new speaker is chosen and sworn in."

Citing Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, he argues that the Constitution does not say specifically that the speaker must be a member of the House.

Fromt the Post:

 The best way out of this mess would be to find someone from outside the House to transcend the differences and alter the dysfunctional dynamic we are all enduring. Ideally, that individual would transcend politics and party — but after David Petraeus’s stumble, we don’t have many such candidates. It would have to be a partisan Republican.

One option would be Jon Huntsman. By any reasonable standard, he is a conservative Republican: As governor of Utah, he supported smaller government, lower taxes and balanced budgets, and he opted consistently for market-based solutions. As a presidential candidate, he supported positions that were in the wheelhouse of Ronald Reagan. But a Speaker Huntsman would look beyond party and provide a different kind of leadership. He would drive a hard bargain with the president but would aim for a broad majority from the center out, not from the right fringe in. He could not force legislation onto the floor, but he would have immense moral suasion.

Ornstein also suggested Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind., as a possible replacement.

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Aei John Boehner Jon Huntsman Norm Ornstein U.s. House Of Representatives