We’ve witnessed several months of Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman on the campaign trail. So far, among potential GOP voters, he’s about as popular as Raid in a roach-infested hamburger shack. Huntsman ain’t gonna be the GOP nominee. He’s in a fierce battle with uber-righty Rick Santorum for 2 percent in the national polls. He may garner a weak fourth to sixth place in the New Hampshire primary — if he lasts past a 0.5 percent showing in Iowa — but he’ll have to quit after South Carolina rejects him.
As George Will aptly put it, Huntsman is liked by people who don’t like Republicans. In the debates he continues to please people who aren’t planning to vote Republican in 2012. His demeanor as a GOP candidate is so different from the guy we knew as governor in Utah. Forced into the role of GOP moderate scold who is supposed to be above the likes of a Bachmann, Cain, Perry or Gingrich, he seems arrogant, disdainful and supercilious when dealing with the other candidates.
Huntsman is a serious pol and worthy of respect, but as President Obama’s ex-ambassador to China, it was always a long shot to connect with Republican voters during the primary season. I wonder what the ex-governor’s post-GOP presidential race strategy will be.
Some observers see Huntsman as a natural third party presidential candidate (read), the mythical hoped-for moderate candidate that pundits such as Thomas Friedman, David Brooks and others periodically yearn for. The problem with that scenario, and many observers have pointed this out, is that “moderate candidate yearners” tend to want candidates who think like President Barack Obama, but are not saddled with the Barack Obama who disappoints on foreign policy and the economy. It’s “The West Wing syndrome,” where disillusioned supporters of President Clinton admired TV President Josiah Bartlet, who was Clinton without the sexual baggage.
Huntsman could certainly run on an independent presidential ticket, and it might even excite for a couple of months. But as November approached, his poll ratings would collapse to the low single digits as many “moderates,” worried about a Republican presidential win, return to a less glamorous but more likely to win President Obama.
On Facebook, I read (and I apologize for not recalling the “friend”) someone opining that Huntsman might challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2012. It’s an intriguing thought, but the only place I can find a mention of it is as a comment on the Democratic Underground site (read) Huntsman certainly could not challenge Hatch as a Republican. He’s no longer as charming to Utah’s right wing delegates. But an independent bid within Utah would be interesting.