Who will Huntsman endorse?


Jon Huntsman isn’t going to win the presidency next year. He’s also not going to win the Republican presidential nomination, and he probably won’t even win the primary in his home state of Utah — a July poll gives Mitt Romney 63% to Huntsman’s 10%. He was Barack Obama’s ambassador to China, and he’s spent most of his time in the campaign first meekly and then aggressively declaring his moderate bona fides. So why is he in the race? Some have speculated that he’s just trying to raise name-recognition for a 2016 run, likely against a crowd of lower-profile opponents. Others suggest he’s running for the VP nomination in 2012. Presumably conventional wisdom doesn’t find him cynical enough to think he’s running just to land a book deal in 2013.

As it happens, I don’t really care why he’s running. When his campaign ends, it’ll just be another data-point in the history of failed presidential runs. What I’m really interested in is the question of who Huntsman will endorse. It’s clear that Huntsman is not happy with where his party and most of its presidential candidates are at policy-wise. He’s recently come out of the science closet with strong, counter-partisan statements of belief in both evolution and anthropomorphic climate change. The Republican most like him is Mitt Romney, who’s been running hard to the right of late, but Huntsman has recently gone after him for both his lack of any coherent belief structure and his terrible record on job creation.

Assume Huntsman wins few delegates and Romney cleanly secures the nomination. Romney’s core technocratic self is probably not that different from Huntsman’s, but a President Romney would be seriously indebted to the GOP fringes that Huntsman is trying to reassert the center-right’s dominance over. On the other hand, the next most Huntsman-like candidate will also be on the general election ballot in 2012 — Barack Obama. Huntsman went after Obama recently, as well, but it was a fairly tepid assault, claiming that he should’ve taken to the bully pulpit earlier, that he’s “too far left” and that he ought to quit using teleprompters. That’s some tired, easy stuff, with none of the oomph found in what he’s said recently about Romney, Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry. So what’s the likelihood that he endorses Obama? “President Obama and I have our differences, but he is the only candidate taking our dire economic situation seriously, blah blah blah.” Huntsman’s main constituency is the Washington press corps, and he must know that this is the kind of thing that would make a big splash with them, both at the time and when he does whatever he does next.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think Huntsman’s endorsement will matter, but as the Republican party continues its rightward march, I do think it’s interesting to watch what its few remaining moderates might do to try to regain control. Elite signalling that even a technocratic nominee is too beholden to the fringe would only be a first step, but it’s a step.

Share this post:

    Tags: , , ,

    • Guest

      If Santorum manages to win the nom but lose to election, Huntsman may have a chance next time, as per your recent post.