Dude, I think this is the guy.

On Obama’s $787 billion stimulus: It’s easy to criticize the bill and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to take the money. It’s pretty simple.

I guess in hindsight we can all say that there were some fundamental flaws with it. It probably wasn’t large enough and, number two, there probably wasn’t enough stimulus effect. For example, a payroll tax exemption or maybe even a cut in the corporate tax…for small and medium-sized businesses for three years, for example.

We will take the money … The size of about a trillion dollars was floated by Mark Zandi, who’s a very respected economist. I tend to believe what he is saying about the size of the package, which didn’t necessarily hit the mark in terms of size.

You can imagine how he’ll spin this in the debates — “since when are Republicans against tax cuts?” — but clearly he wasn’t thinking of a tax-cuts-only package at the time. Which prompts the question: Between his stimulus stance, his work with Obama, and his support for civil unions, why does Huntsman persist in believing the base will line up behind him if he wins the nomination?

The answer: Cycles, my friends. Cycles.

Like any astute GOP candidate, Huntsman happily paid lip service to the Tea Party, calling it a “classical case of a spontaneous uprising of people who are fed up.” But one telling moment made its way through the haze of rhetoric. Attempting to draw a more candid answer from him, I challenged his assertion that populist movements like the Tea Party are “healthy” for democracy: “But don’t you run the risk of a given party not being able to nominate candidates who are willing to work with the other…”

Huntsman raised his right index finger before I could finish the question and interjected: “But that’s temporary.”

It was the only time in our interview that he interrupted me, and it was clear that he had given the subject a great deal of thought. “Our politics in America go in cycles,” he explained. “And the cycles have to complete one iteration before they give rise to an alternative. And what we’re experiencing today will give rise to an alternative. And the alternative will likely be a response to people who are perceived to have gone too far.”

Yeah, American politics goes through cycles, but there’s no obvious reason why this cycle will have run its course by 2012. Tea partiers are already motivated and organized to tackle Senate incumbents like Lugar and Snowe, and my perception of grassroots conservatives generally is that they’re still aggrieved at having nominated an allegedly “electable” moderate last time who proved not to be so electable after all. (Yet another burden for Huntsman: John Weaver and Fred Davis, both McCain veterans, are part of his own 2012 team.) Fears of the base staying home or voting third-party are almost always overblown, especially when the incumbent is as widely loathed as The One is by righties, but I think that’s a legit risk if Huntsman ends up as the nominee. There’ll be some critical mass of tea partiers and/or “true conservatives” who are tired of supporting RINOs in the general election; if they can convince themselves that the GOP nominee, a la McCain, is too “centrist” to beat Obama (especially one whose Mormonism may be an issue in the south), that may be all they need to bolt. After all we’ve seen over the past two years, is 2012 really the election in which the base lines up behind a “No Labels” candidate?

According to one Republican strategist, one of Huntsman’s virtues is that he’s “more authentic than Romney.” Which, as a Twitter pal of mine noted, is like saying that he’s taller than Robert Reich. Exit question: Why is the White House “furious” at the thought of Huntsman running? Don’t they want the primaries jampacked with centrists to split the vote among moderate Republicans so that a Palinesque conservative can squeak through? Or … do they seriously believe Huntsman can win?