I often wonder why Jon Huntsman is still in the race he is almost an afterthought in the campaign. In the Iowa straw poll results he finished 9th with only 69 total votes out of almost 17,000 votes. Huntsman received fewer votes than Rick Perry who got 718 write-in votes and he didn’t even announce that he was running until the straw poll voting had already started.
In a campaign season where Republican’s are trying to recapture their conservative mantle, Jon Huntsman is a liberal Republican. In fact many a pundit has wondered if Huntsman was running for the nomination of the wrong party.
The Wall Street Journal said that Huntsman’s contrary positions are part of his strategy, at least as it applies to global warming. The Journal says that Huntsman is using climate change as his opportunity to differentiate himself by appealing to Republicans to the left of Mitt Romney.
Mr. Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to Beijing, began his candidacy stressing his resume and his attractive family. With that getting him nowhere in a year when issues trump biography, he’s now attacking fellow Republicans for, among other things, not embracing the science of global warming. “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,” Mr. Huntsman said on Twitter, a criticism of recent remarks by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Mr. Huntsman followed that up on Sunday on ABC, telling Jake Tapper that the GOP has a “serious problem” when it becomes “anti-science.”
Huntsman has two shots at winning, slim and none, but he is spending his time attacking the other candidates. Its almost as if he is saying, “If I can’t have the presidency no one can.”
The broadside was part of a larger strategy of attacking all of his GOP opponents for something or other. He ripped Mitt Romney for flip-flopping on taxes, assailed Michele Bachmann for saying she’d get gas prices below $2 a gallon and called Mr. Perry “unelectable.”
All of this is the hallmark of John Weaver, who is Mr. Huntsman’s chief strategist. Mr. Weaver has long been at war with the GOP mainstream, and his candidates typically end up running against some element of the Republican base. That was his strategy in 2000 with John McCain, who won New Hampshire but lost in South Carolina after attacking fellow Republicans. Mr. Weaver was no longer advising Mr. McCain in 2008 when the Arizonan won the nomination. Mr. Weaver is angling Mr. Huntsman for a McCain-2000-style victory in New Hampshire.
The strange part is it just doesn’t makes sense. True McCain got the nomination last time but he lost the election, the GOP isn’t likely to make that same mistake with a nominee so soon after the 2008 Election. The GOP is a lot different than it was it 2008, the traditional party hacks that helped nominate McCain have been overrun by the conservative wing of the party. Huntsman’s no idiot, he understands this, so it leads back to the question what the heck is the former Utah Governor doing.
Here’s another suggestion. What if Huntsman is posturing himself for a 2016 run. Perhaps he remembers the conservative movement in the early 1960’s and he is expecting the 2012 GOP nominee to lose in the same way LBJ trounced Goldwater.
If that is behind Huntsman’s strategy of being a liberal Republican in a conservative world he is in for a big surprise. Barry Goldwater was running against someone who was a popular president at the time. A return to conservative values was something new for the for the country and the party. In fact many in the traditional GOP Republican did not work hard to elect because of the divisive primaries that let to his nomination.
The 2012 nominee (as long as it isn’t Ron Paul) will have the support of a united party. The nominee will be facing a president whose programs, especially in the area of the number one issue, the economy is very unpopular. In 1964 there was no reason to change course, this time there is every reason to change.
According to the WSJ Jon Huntsman is posturing himself to become the liberal alternative in 2012. It would not be beyond reason for Huntsman’s approach to be directed toward 2016. Either way the former ambassador to China seems out of touch with the country and with his party. Perhaps his time would be better spent doing something else.