Huntsman uncampaign takes aim at Romney

Tim Miller, who introduced himself to me via email a few days ago as the guy “likely to be doing the media work should Jon Huntsman decide to run for President when he returns from Beijing,” wanted to make sure I saw these two pieces.

The first casts doubt on the viability of Mitt Romney, widely seen as the leading contender among the non-crazy aspirants to the GOP presidential nomination, in South Carolina:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — He may be the presumed national frontrunner, but when he launches his all-but-certain presidential campaign, Mitt Romney figures to be a heavy underdog in the historically decisive South Carolina presidential primary.
During his 2008 run, Romney competed fiercely to win the first-in-the-South primary state, which has voted for the eventual GOP nominee in every contest since 1980. But after more than a year of pouring significant time and money into the state, Romney pulled out his South Carolina resources with 10 days to go before primary day in order to focus on friendlier ground in Michigan and Nevada.
This time around, his South Carolina prospects are not looking much better.
“He finished fourth here last time, and if he hasn’t really done a lot of groundwork, it might be an uphill battle,” said South Carolina State Rep. Nathan Ballentine, who endorsed Romney’s last campaign. “So maybe you focus on New Hampshire and then head up to Nevada and Florida — things like that.”
Ballentine, who is one of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s closest allies in the state legislature, described himself as a “loyal guy” who was inclined to endorse Romney again but had not yet made up his mind. Ballentine was frank in his assessment that the former Massachusetts governor, who tried to convince South Carolinians throughout 2007 that he was a “Yankee governor” with “southern values,” might again have a difficult time connecting with voters here….

The second piece, by our old buddy Peter Hamby, portrays Jon Huntsman as the Mormon more likely to do well here — not to mention, a guy likely to gain the support of those looking for someone who might actually have a chance against President Obama with us swing voters:

Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) – If ambassador to China Jon Huntsman does decide to run for president after returning to the United States in early May, his advisers are planning to make a serious play for South Carolina, the early primary state that traditionally propels Republican candidates to the presidential nomination.

The conservative-leaning state might seem like a curious place to make a stand for a Mormon ex-Obama administration official who supports same-sex civil unions, but his team is confident that South Carolina Republicans are hungry for a fresh face in a lackluster 2012 field.

“If he gets in the race, from everything I’ve heard, his plan would be to plant a flag in South Carolina,” said longtime Columbia-based strategist Richard Quinn, who helped John McCain win the state’s primary in 2008. “I really think we can win here.”

Quinn is working for Horizon PAC, Huntsman’s campaign-in-waiting, and will steer his presidential bid in South Carolina should the ambassador officially enter the race after his China post concludes on April 30.

He said New Hampshire and South Carolina – two of the four early states that allow independents to participate in their presidential primaries – “are ready for the arrival of a major new player.”

“I think moving from New Hampshire to South Carolina, that’s the traditional path,” Quinn said, mapping out Huntsman’s potential path to the nomination. “No disrespect to Iowa, but New Hampshire and South Carolina are two parts of a three part rocket, along with Florida.”

Huntsman, also a former Utah governor, will return to the United States just before the South Carolina Republican Party sponsors the first Republican presidential debate in Greenville on May 5, but his advisers are doubtful that he will participate.

He will, however, have an opportunity to introduce himself to the state when he delivers a May 7 commencement speech at the University of South Carolina.

Make of that what you will.

Meanwhile, Huntsman’s last day on the job in Beijing is Saturday.

4 thoughts on “Huntsman uncampaign takes aim at Romney

  1. Doug Ross

    Let’s see – a Mormon with ZERO name recognition who thinks he can do better than another Mormon who people actually can recognize and yet finished 4th here.

    Those political campaign operatives would tell Al Sharpton he could win the Republican primary in SC as long as Al wrote the check. What a scummy business.

  2. Steven Davis

    See what happens when we elect a Catholic… first them, now Mormons, what next… Jehovah’s Witness?

  3. bud

    Religion is irrelevant. Our incumbant Kenyan born, Muslim president should put an end to that debate.

    Seriously, the GOP is unlikely to go with a complete unknown like Huntsman. It’s just not in their DNA. The candidates who ran in 2008 are by far the most likely to win nomination this time around. I’d put the odds at Romney – 50%, Huckabee – 30%, Pawlenty – 10%, Bachmann – 5% and all others combined about 5%.

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