Former Utah Governor turned Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. has resigned his post, and all speculation is that he's prepping for a White House run.

Huntsman has the money to jump-start a campaign, and the timing is undeniable, but he'd have to be tone deaf to take a run seriously.  He's proven himself to be a sharp reader of political winds, and agile flip flopper.  To get elected in Utah, he tied himself to an Eagle Forum devotee for Lt. Gov (Now Governor... so thanks for that Jon) from Utah's most conservative county.  Once elected, fence sitting and inconsistencies were elevated to an art form.  Jed Lewison beat me to the punch, detailing Huntsman as a walking contradiction. 

But it's not just contradictions in tone, it's also substance. For example, in early 2009, Huntsman said Republicans needed to embrace gay rights and endorsed civil unions, but in 2004 he supported a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a ban which included the following provision: "No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect."

Similarly, in 2009, he said Republicans needed to take a moderate stand on immigration and praised Ronald Reagan for granting amnesty, yet a year earlier, he'd signed into law a hard-line anti-immigration measure similar to Arizona's SB1070.

Sound familiar?  Mittens, Jr, without the health care mandate.

Huntsman can read the leaves, and shape himself accordingly, but it's TEA leaves he'd be reading now.  Despite his overwhemling popularity in the second most conservative state in the union, Huntsman saw the writing on the wall after the 2008 election results were in.  His state, just as in the Clinton years, was about to become a far-right haven he wouldn't fare as well in.  He'd painted himself as a moderate, without actually opposing some of the most extreme policies the Utah State Legislature tossed his way, but in the tea party age his lack of commitment to Teh Crazy was about to come home, and he -- smartly -- bailed.

In short, if the GOP were anywhere close to sane right now, Huntsman the Moderate could be their best shot.  But the TeaGOP won't buy Huntsman the Palin-ite.  Plus, Mittens! is one step ahead on the pandering.

If Huntsman gets in, it's just until Iowa.  Enough to show intent, on his own dime, with 2016 in mind.


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1 Comment

Ambassador is not necessarily the greatest job

I wouldn't discount the possibility that Huntsman was bored, very quickly, with being Ambassador; it sounds like a position where you're in a key role, but the actual work of a relationship between the US and China (or most any country, but especially one that important) happens on several levels, and Ambassadors matter only but so much (they are after all, very transient in a State Department where lower level employees can serve far longer). I think Huntsman may have been sold on some notion that he'd play a "key role" only to discover that he was pretty much ignored, in a country not his own, for an extended period of time. Coming home on the pretext of developing a presidential campaign puts him more where the action is, which is probably where he really wants to be - first, home, and second, able to play some role in politics.

Like many, I can't see how Huntsman makes a case for President that appeals to Republican voters in primaries, when Tea Party anger and heavy conservatism are what's moving the base. Utah is especially moody just now (I'm interested to see if Orrin Hatch survives), and Huntsman seems out of step. And I'd keep in mind that Huntsman did jump at an Ambassadorship which is usually seen as running away from a tough political environment at home.Huntsman's bid for Presidential cred seems unlikely to go anywhere... but it does keep him in the game for the next year or so.

I'm more concerned, really, that liberals aren't spending more time watching Haley Barbour's machinations - his attempts to control the machinery of the Republican Party are the kind of moves that can make the primary process irrelevant.

by nycweboy1 2011-02-02 08:32AM | 0 recs


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