A candidate to be taken seriously

I don’t know a whole lot about Jon Huntsman. I mean, I know a few things, but not enough to reach critical mass for a judgment in my own mind.

But I know I’ll be watching him closely, now that he’s announced:

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Jon M. Huntsman Jr. officially launched his White House bid here Tuesday morning, setting up a campaign for the GOP nomination that, if successful, would lead to a matchup against his former boss.

“I’ve been a governor … I’ve been a businessman and a I’ve been a diplomat. I’m the husband of the love of my life … and the father of seven terrific kids,” Huntsman told a crowd of supporters at Liberty State Park, the Statue of Liberty rising just behind him. “I’m from the American West, where the view of America is limitless with lots of blue sky.”…

I look at it this way: Jon Huntsman has a reference that is almost as good as having the UnParty seal of approval — Barack Obama. The president hired him for a job of considerable responsibility, ambassador to China. You know, that big place across the water that owns all that U.S. debt. The place where all that stuff at Walmart comes from.

So if Obama thought enough of him to hire him, and now he’s turned in his notice in order to run against Obama — well, that’s a guy who might have something to say worth listening to. He might be a credible, informed critic.

So I’m going to listen.

Speaking of listening, I listened in to a conference call Dick Harpootlian had today with media types to talk about Huntsman, after which he put out this release:

Harpootlian welcomes “ambassador, governor, Democrat, Republican Jon Huntsman to South Carolina”

Columbia, S.C. –  South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootilan held a conference call today to welcome Jon Huntsman to South Carolina.

While Huntsman travels to our state to kick off his Presidential campaign Harpootlian welcomes him by saying, “we always welcome Obama administration officials in South Carolina.”  Harpootlian called Huntsman a political “schizophrenic” who’s “very similar to Mitt Romney” in his flip-flopping on key issues such as the Recovery Act.

“Between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, we have, actually, four candidates rather than two,” said Harpootlian.

That’s pretty much what he said to us on the phone. Afterwards, I asked him whether he was more worried about Huntsman than he was the other Republicans. He said he wasn’t. But I think he should be.

Yeah, Huntsman has a challenge before him getting the nomination with his party momentarily in the thrall of the Tea Party. But from what little I’ve seen so far, he seems like he could have a better chance in the general if he could get that far.

But as I say, that’s how it looks so far. I’ll keep watching.

36 thoughts on “A candidate to be taken seriously

  1. Brad

    And yeah, it appears that Dick misused the term “schizophrenic” there. I’ve taken heat from advocates for the mentally ill for that before.

    But I doubt Dick cares.

  2. Doug Ross

    He’s got an interesting biography on Wikipedia.

    Eagle Scout.
    Son of a billionaire chemical magnate.

    And here’s the kiss of death for him when it comes to you, Brad:

    “He oversaw large tax cuts and advocated reorganizing the way that services were distributed so that the government would not become overwhelmed by the state’s fast growing population. He also proposed a plan to reform health-care, mainly through the private sector, by using tax breaks and negotiation to keep prices down.”

    He also received the highest rating from the libertarian Cato Institute on tax policy.

  3. Doug Ross

    Oh, and he’s a high school dropout who earned his GED before heading on to the University of Utah and then Penn for his degree. He dropped out of school to try and and make it as a keyboard player in a band.

    But the fact that he is a Mormon basically kills his chance to win.

  4. Mike

    I’m surprised that you did not stress in your post the fact that Huntsman stressed in his announcement speech, rollout videos, etc. that he is going to stress civility as a major campaign theme. He stresses that to suggest that the rest of the GOP field does not. The No Labels floks are gushing all over him – which is like the UnParty. Other than the fact that he seems to be a relative dove on Afghanistan, this guy should be your candidate.

  5. Brad

    Doug, I didn’t see anything in what you quoted that would be a deal-killer for me.

    And thanks, Mike, for reminding me. Dick said something about that, only to heap scorn on it. But it sounds good to me.

  6. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    I think Doug is right that being a Mormon is a huge drawback for the national Republican electorate…and he’s a Utah Mormon, to boot…

  7. Doug Ross


    Seriously? Nikki Haley would kill for a paragraph like that about her regarding tax cuts.

    There is zero chance you will support a candidate who is rated highly by the Cato Institute on tax policy. You fawn over his Unparty-ness, but you’ll never support a President who says he will cut government, is against an individual mandate for healthcare,”his backing of civil unions for gay couples”, “enacted the most expansive school-voucher program in the country – in 2007, Huntsman signed a bill providing a tuition voucher for up to $3,000 for private-school students” …

    Do I need to go further? Or are you just hoping he’ll offer some “nuance” on those positions?

    He seems like an ideal candidate for me.. which should send you running for the hills. I spent three months in Salt Lake City last year and found it to be one of the most enjoyable places I’ve been. Hard working, honest, people. A real focus on business (that is a result of the Mormon work ethic, I suppose).

  8. Steven Davis

    You know I would have considered him, but the Mormon thing kills it. You see I didn’t have a problem with Mormons until a family of them moved into my neighborhood. They’re impossible and think the world revolves around their precious little brats, then the rest of their family comes to visit and they’re as bad, then they host what I can only consider as Church – Part II at their house and the neighborhood is filled with these wackos. As far as I’m concerned this isn’t a religion, it’s a cult.

  9. Steven Davis

    I like how it was brought out that he announced that he declared in New York… when in fact he was in New Jersey.

    And he’s getting the hang of this “Tweeter” thing.

  10. tired old man

    The first Republican candidate who has a remote chance of being elected.

    His civility will be welcomed.

  11. Doug Ross

    And the final nail in the coffin – from a Slate.com analysis of the Huntsmen announcement:

    “Jim DeMint says he won’t back any candidate who doesn’t back a Balanced Budget Amendment? Huntsman will back a Balanced Budget Amendment, because “every governor in this country has a balanced budget amendment.”


  12. Karen McLeod

    I want to see what this man actually says. I like that he says he’s not going to participate in the negative politics (that’s the first thing that led me to take Mr. Obama seriously.

  13. Norm Ivey

    From HuffPost:

    Huntsman is also a conservative technocrat-optimist with moderate positions who was willing to work substantively with President Barack Obama.

    This poor guy doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Columbia of surviving the primaries. It’s a shame.

  14. Tim

    It’s going to be Romney, because while the Republican’s love to flirt with the extremes in the early stages, they always go for the next guy in line. That is Romney. Huntsman is angling for that role in 2016.

  15. Doug Ross

    So as long as he’s “civil”, it doesn’t matter what his views are on major policies? Is he running for President or for America’s Top Butler?

    Go thru the checklist and tell me when you start caring what he would do as President versus how he speaks:

    Pro vouchers for private schools and encouraging competition.

    Pro life.

    Pro withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    Pro tax cuts to drive business.

    Pro civil unions for gays.

    Pro cap-and-trade.

    Other than the last one, I’m good with all that. But it doesn’t matter anyway… he’ll be gone in six months. No name recognition, the Mormon thing, no real support from the mainstream Republicans. Just another Fred Thompson/Brownback/etc. name to keep the media interested for a couple days.

    It’s going to come down to Romney, Perry (if he enters), or Bachman. I’m betting on a Romney/Bachman ticket.

  16. Bart

    My comment several weeks ago about Huntsman remain. He is to me a great candidate and should be taken seriously. As for the Mormon thing, absolutely do not agree it will be a hindrance.

    JFK was thought to be unelectable because he was Catholic. Barack Obama was thought to be unelectable because of his race. The barriers are falling each day as they should.

    So far, I like the man and think he would be the best choice of all those running on either side.

  17. Phillip

    It’s getting to be a topsy-turvy world out there. Huntsman on Afghanistan: “I think that we need to transition into a counter-terror effort as quickly as we can… Definitely, get American troops out faster…Transition into what would be more in line with intelligence collecting, special forces on the ground, some training needs obviously with the Afghan army, and that’s not a hundred thousand soldiers.”

    Run, Jon, run! Seriously, though, if voices like his can return the Republican party to its Baker-Lugar-Scowcroft-Powell roots on foreign policy and away from the Kristol-Perle-Wolfowitz neo-conservative wing that hijacked it after 9/11, he will have accomplished a great deal.

  18. bud

    At least Huntsman is reasonably sane. That would pretty much rule him out as a contender for GOP nomination. Don’t think the Mormon thing will be an issue. My new odds:

    Romney – 2-3
    Bachmann – 4-1
    Huntsman – 6-1
    Pawlenty – 10-1
    Cain – 30-1
    Paul – 40-1
    Santorum – 40-1
    Palin – 50-1
    Gingrich – 100-1

  19. Brad

    You’re missing the point, Doug — what I’m talking about here is a lot more than civility, although that along calls for a lot. We’re talking about a guy who didn’t let party be a barrier when he was asked to go serve his country in an important role.

    As for your list:
    — Pro vouchers for private schools and encouraging competition. Yeah, I disagree. On the vouchers, and on the mad idea that what public schools need is “competition,” as though the problem is that they’re not trying or something — totally fantasy-based. But not a deal-killer, mainly because I don’t much care what a president thinks about education policy. (I’d prefer a president who doesn’t think about education at ALL, because it’s not a legitimate function of his office, but you can’t always get what you want.)
    — Pro life. Two big thumbs up.
    — Pro withdrawal from Afghanistan. Let me see how he speaks about it over time. Obama is also “pro withdrawal from Afghanistan.” But I haven’t noticed us leaving yet.
    — Pro tax cuts to drive business. Sounds OK to me. What I don’t like is tax cuts as a vote-buying device (which is what they usually are), or purely in the service of some abstraction as “shrinking government,” as though there were some perfect size for government (and that perfect size always seems to be smaller than whatever it is).
    — Pro civil unions for gays. Don’t much care. Get back to me when he starts calling it “marriage.”
    — Pro cap-and-trade. You know what? I’ve never made up my mind about cap-and-trade. You’ll notice I’ve never really taken a position on it here. At first blush, I tend to like it (sounds kinda Energy Party), but then I hear all these arguments against, and then I start wondering who’s right, and then I start thinking about something else. Another confusing thing: Someone will propose something, and someone who is against it will say “that’s cap and trade,” and the first guy will say, “No it isn’t,” and I get confused.

    Or is that some other policy buzzword where that happens?

    I don’t know. It’s almost as confusing as Romney being the godfather of Obamacare, only he’s not, only he is…

  20. David

    I liked how you used the quotes from the partisan to make someone “worth listening to” — like Huntsman potentially is — stand out all the more.

  21. Brad

    Thanks for noticing. Yeah, Dick’s attitude, of trying to use Huntsman’s virtues against him, really underlines those qualities.

    Dick has no use for civility in politics. He’s quite contemptuous of it. It’s why he tried to derail Vincent Sheheen’s nomination — didn’t think he was tough enough. As for Huntsman’s intent of staying “above the fray” — Dick says that will last “about two nanoseconds” in SC. “You can’t run for political office above the fray.”

  22. bud

    I just don’t see him (Romney)ever surviving much scrutiny.

    Couldn’t disagree more. Romney has already endured the most scrutiny of any of the candidates and he leads in most polls. Frankly, I think Romney all but has it locked up. The media is driving this nonsense about “Obamneycare”, not the GOP voters. I don’t really think the rank and file voters are that bothered by what the president did with health care let alone what Romney did. In the end I think most voters will appreciate those aspects of health care that work for them, like the no existing pre-conditions thing.

    Romney is dull but generally likeable. He seems to have the best record of any of the GOP candidates and he’s certainly got the support of the party elite who generally control things in that party. (Unlike the Dems who seem to take to the outsider often).

    Bachmann is a distant second by virtue of her complete takeover of the crazy faction of the GOP. With Palin, Trump, Gingrich and Santorum fading fast she pretty much has the Tea Party faithful in the bank. I just don’t think that will be enough to overcome the “it’s his turn” aspect of GOP politics.

    Cain is now the fringe candidate who seems most interesting. Ron Paul just seems like a foolish old man who is addicted to running for president. That’s the Harold Stassen effect that’s hard to shake after about the third run for POTUS. Plus I don’t think his pragmatic military ideas mesh well with his ridiculous libertarian ideas about the economy.

  23. Brad

    As for Romney: The YouTube problem, which I wrote about in 2007, remains. And when you add to that the fact that he’s forced — by the fact that his party has gone stark raving bonkers over the issue — to disavow his one accomplishment, I just don’t see him ever surviving much scrutiny.

  24. Karen McLeod

    Doug, to me Huntsman’s statement that he’s going to run a civil campaign suggests that he may actually have something positive to say rather than simply dissing everyone else. It also indicates a bit of self control which seems to be missing from many of our pols.

  25. Doug Ross

    “It’s why he tried to derail Vincent Sheheen’s nomination — didn’t think he was tough enough.”

    He was right on that one. Nice guys finish second.

  26. Doug Ross


    “with his ridiculous libertarian ideas about the economy.”

    Yeah, he only called the 2008 recession while everyone else was pretending it could never happen.

    As long as the Fed can print money, there will be economic bubbles. The housing market hasn’t come close to shaking out yet. Obama will be praying that second bubble won’t hit early next year.

  27. Norm Ivey

    The primary voters are going to have some say, but I think Bud is probably right that it’s Romney’s turn. He started strong last time around, and is doing well in the polls now. Romney is smart enough not to make the McCain mistake of picking an inexperienced far-right running mate, so Bachmann is probably out on that account. She’d scare independents away from the ticket. I don’t see any of the current candidates making a good VP candidate for Romney except Huntsman or Pawlenty. If Perry gets in, he’ll siphon some from Bachmann and some from Paul and would give Romney a run. If Palin gets in, she probably makes it a two-way race with Romney–he carries the moderates; she takes the extremists. After McCain pretty much had it sewn up last time, only Huckabee gave him much trouble, and there’s no Huckabee type candidate this time around. Paul is on track to become the Ralph Nader of the Republican party. Romney is probably the only one who can give Obama any sort of challenge in a national race.

    Gingrich probably gets out after Iowa, if he lasts that long. Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Bachmann probably wins South Carolina (give it to Perry if he gets in). After Super Tuesday, the field is down to Romney (front-runner), Paul (he won’t quit–stayed in until June last time), and Bachmann (ego).

  28. Mark Stewart

    The statement that the now party chair “tried” to derail Sheheen’s run proves he was tough enough, Doug.

    If you perceive that only thugs and malcontents can win in politics you have nobody to blame but yourself. You are the voter.

  29. Brad

    Hmmm… after Doug quoted me on that “tried to derail” thing, I wondered whether I had overstated the case. Sounds like he was out there setting explosives under the tracks or something.

    We’re talking conventional wisdom here, which is often not wise at all. And in this case, the word on the street was wildly inaccurate. Remember when Corey called ME asking if I was the guy that Dick and Jim Hodges were going to put forward to take on Vincent, because he didn’t think he’d be tough enough?

    What really happened was that Dwight Drake stepped forward with Dick’s backing, and for a time ran a relatively aggressive campaign — but I think Vincent surprised everybody by coming at Dwight pretty strong from the beginning. Before long, Dwight was out and Vincent won the nomination without a runoff.

    So Mark has a point: Dick may be the “tough guy” (just ask him; he’ll tell you), but who came out on top?

    Of course, Dick would probably tell you that he, Dick Harpootlian, FORCED Vincent to get tough…

  30. Doug Ross


    Tough does not equal being a thug. Tough can be any number of attributes – none of which Vincent Sheheen demonstrated.

    He was a boring candidate without a platform. He only courted the anti-Haley vote. Smart guy? Nice guy? Sure.

    And since his loss? Back into the shadows and his $350K a year job. Why isn’t he out there pushing for the issues that affect Democrats the most? He’s a backroom guy.

  31. Burl Burlingame

    I don’t care if any candidates are Mormons. I care if they are fundamentalists of any denomination and want to impose their religious beliefs through legislation. I don’t see many — any — Mormons doing that.
    But at least he’s not a Scientologist.

Comments are closed.