Endorsements that don’t help Huntsman, but should

Last night on Pub Politics, since Joel Sawyer was co-hosting, I brought up this Tweet from the day before in which Nicholas Kristof mentioned Joel’s candidate:

It’s odd to see Republicans struggling to find an electable candidate.They have 1: Jon Huntsman.They just don’t like him.

To me, that’s a fine thought with which I agree completely. I greatly respect Nicholas Kristof. But of course, with the great mass of GOP voters who seem determined in 2012 to run off a cliff together with the most Out There candidate they can find, it’s an invitation to like Huntsman even less. Because Kristof is a liberal. A very thoughtful, iconoclastic liberal (a guy who, for instance, persuaded me to have a big problem with Obama’s lack of support for the Colombian Trade Agreement in 2008) who is in no way like the ranting partisans of the left.

But that doesn’t matter. He’s a liberal, and that’s that. The kinds of Republicans who don’t like Huntsman — and there are a great many of them — are of the sort (and you find far too many such people in both parties) who are convinced that a person who leans the other way would only say good things about a candidate of their party as some sort of dirty trick meant to promote the weakest candidate.

That, of course, is extremely foolish in this context. If Kristof is up to anything underhanded in this instance (which he isn’t), it would be a sort of double-reverse move — I’ll praise the best candidate in their party so they’ll be sure not to like him.

This huge mass of post-2008 Republicans seem bound and determined not to nominate anyone who might win the general election. Which is very odd, given that they seem to dislike Barack Obama so much.

In 2008, a wonderful thing happened: Both parties actually chose the candidate most likely to appeal to the political center. I do not recall any time when that happened before in my adult life (or at least, I don’t remember the last time my own favorite candidates in both parties won their respective nominations).

At the time, of course, there was a faction that utterly rejected this approach, and for the longest time waged an “anybody but McCain” quest. (Ironically, the choice of the Right — such as Jim DeMint — was Mitt Romney, who this year is considered Mr. Moderate. Which shows you what’s happened since 2008.) Just as the more vehement partisans of the left insisted their party had to nominate Hillary Clinton.

Tragically, the conclusion that far too many Republicans have drawn from 2008 is that they were not extreme enough. (They fail to understand that McCain was defeated mainly by two factors: the collapse of the economy in mid-September, and his having chosen Sarah Palin as an attempt to please the very faction that didn’t like him.)

So they flit from Bachmann to Perry to, now, Cain. And in the polls, Romney remains bridesmaid to them all.

And they utterly ignore that there’s another moderate choice, one without Romney’s baggage: Huntsman.

Last night, when I brought of the Kristof Tweet on the show, co-host Phil Bailey (who works for the SC Senate Democrats) weighed in with how much he, too, liked Huntsman.

I don’t think that thrilled Joel, either.

Phil, I believe, really was employing the strategy of saying nice things about a strong candidate on the other side so that the other side wouldn’t like him. But don’t let that blind you to the fact that Huntsman is the candidate most likely to appeal to the center, and even to disaffected Democrats.

10 thoughts on “Endorsements that don’t help Huntsman, but should

  1. bud

    Just as the more vehement partisans of the left insisted their party had to nominate Hillary Clinton.

    DING, DING, DING. We have a winner!! Who had the seventh paragraph, last sentence on the over/under? That will get you the grand prize of pervayor of non-sensensical bi-partisan, flaptrap nonsense as presented by your ringleader and chief appologist for the GOP — BRAD WARTHEN!!!!

    Wow Brad, you just cannot help yourself can you? Had to have the balance. As utterly wrong as that statement is you had to have something. You could actually be a halfway decent analyst if you could just get over this annoying tick to try and balance everything else out. Sort of journalistic Turrets Syndrome.

  2. Brad

    Actually, Bud, that was one of the main reasons we endorsed Obama. He was the candidate who was going to work with everybody, as opposed to the one whose supporters hoped she would wreak revenge on the GOP. Sorry you don’t remember it that way…

  3. bud

    McCain was defeated mainly by two factors: the collapse of the economy in mid-September, and his having chosen Sarah Palin as an attempt to please the very faction that didn’t like him.

    Plus the failed war in Iraq, the bungled handling of Katrina, McCain’s age, McCain’s even more hawkish attitude about foreign affairs than Bush, McCain’s utterly ridiculous stunt to suspend his campaign, McCain’s ardent and incomprehensible rejection of his own Mavrick personna in favor of appeasement of the Limbaugh faction of the GOP, his discredited statements on how his life was changed by his stay in the Hanoi Hilton. Plus many, many other shortcomings of the senator from Arizona.

  4. Doug Ross

    McCain was an older, grumpier Bob Dole. That’s why he lost. Palin didn’t have any base to appeal to when she was selected. I would doubt that even 5% of the Republicans knew who she was.

    McCain was wrong on the economy, wrong on the war, wrong on immigration. He’s a lousy debater… he lacks the crowd inspiring “it” factor that people like Reagan, Clinton, and Obama had.

    If Romney was a Baptist, McCain would never have won.

  5. Matt

    Brad do you ever run into Henry McMaster? It would be interesting to know his actual thoughts of having to be tied to a candidate who is obviously going nowhere. Huntsman has a pretty strong A-list of endorsers in SC that are all tied to his consultant – would love the back-story on that too. But to go from being McCain’s state chairman in 2008 and a major SCGOP player to now being state chair for a candidate stuck in single digits that your constituents (the average SCGOP voter) doesn’t like has got to be frustrating for Henry McMaster.

  6. Phillip

    Democrats (like Mr. Bailey) who express some modicum of admiration for Huntsman are generally not (in my opinion) employing “the strategy of saying nice things about a strong candidate on the other side so that the other side wouldn’t like him.” I understand your point to the extent that Obama supporters might feel Huntsman would be a strong general election threat. But such machinations would be wasted in the case of Huntsman, who I think really has NO chance of being nominated. If that game is going to be played, it should be directed at Romney, who I think also could beat Obama and who has yet to win over the far-right “base.”

  7. Brad

    Phillip, my general point is that usually Dems are NOT trying to be provocateurs with such expressions of admiration for a GOP candidate. I just said that about Phil because it seemed that he was needling Joel a bit with it. Maybe I misread him. But Phil likes to kid around.

  8. Brad

    And Matt — I haven’t talked with Henry since the day that he and John Courson and Mike Campbell appeared with Huntsman when he officially registered to be a candidate.

    That day, I asked Henry whether he’d ever had a presidential candidate lose. He couldn’t remember at the moment. Later someone suggested a candidate of his that DID lose (I forget who it was), but on the whole he’s had a really good track record. Courson, too.

    And remember — four years ago everybody was thinking Henry, and Graham and Bobby Harrell, were stuck with a loser. McCain was seen as out of it about this time in 2007. Then, later, Henry and the others were looking pretty good for having stuck with him.

    Of course, the situation was very different. McCain had been the front-runner, and just temporarily slipped for several months. Huntsman has never enjoyed that sort of broad support.

  9. Brad

    I did a lot of video back then. I need to get back into that.

    It’s just that now that I’m shooting HD (and no longer have the three-minute limit I had on my old camera, which imposed a certain discipline in the way I initially shot stuff), it takes so blasted long to get the stuff onto my laptop, then to edit it, then to load it to YouTube…


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