The most important thing about Jon Huntsman is that he’s a much better general election candidate than he is a contender for the Republican party’s nomination. His job is to persuade the Republican electorate that even if they don’t much like him or can’t be quite sure they can trust him, he’s the guy with the best chance of turfing Barack Obama from the White House. His message: Settle for me! It almost worked for John Kerry!
That’s a tricky proposition given that Huntsman was happy to serve in the Obama administration. It’s also a problem given his minimal name recognition, the fact he comes from a small state and that, yup, there’s already a Mormon ex-governor in the race. Oh, and it’s not obvious he believes the same things as the voters who will decide this race do. Apart from that, I like his chances fine.
A friend has been trying to persuade me that Huntsman can be Clinton circa 1992: “a moderate running against his party’s base” since “when the anger abates serious people want a winner.” I think this is thin gruel, not least since Huntsman has been forced to “endorse” Paul Ryan’s budget “plan” to establish his “conservative” credentials but to the extent it is true it reinforces my point that Huntsman is running a He’ll Do campaign in which his main rival is Tim Pawlenty. At present it seems that Huntsman’s support is largely confined to Wall Street and McLean, Virginia. These are important constituencies but making David Brooks swoon is an insufficient condition for winning the Republican nomination.
Where does Huntsman win? Not in Iowa and not in South Carolina either.