One of the many strange aspects of the campaign to select a Republican nominee to take on President Obama was John Huntsman’s approach to securing that nomination. For as silly as it sounds now that he has dropped out of the race with a whimper, the fact is that Huntsman could have been a contender. As a governor in Utah, Huntsman has a record that’s more conservative than Mitt Romney’s was during a similar tenure at the helm in Massachusetts. Huntsman had an economic plan that was far bolder than Romney’s and had won plaudits from most who reviewed it. Huntsman even could have had an edge with his foreign policy experience as ambassador to China (you did know that he was the ambassador to China, right?).
But instead of leading with his conservative record and his plan for the economy, Huntsman decided that he would win the Republican nomination by branding himself as the unRepublican. Huntsman would be the opposite of everything that a focus group of the New York Times editorial board would say Republicans are. He would be cool. He would open to “science” when it came to global warming. He would brag openly about how “international” he was. He would be witty, urbane, and sophisticated and demonstrate that not only was he the smartest guy in the room, he was also the most caring. In other words, he decided to present an image of himself as pretty much everything that your average Republican voter has come to loathe about smug liberals. I can’t imagine why this strategy failed attract supporters.
The WSJ had more on the news that Huntsman Drops Out:
The former Utah Governor had an intriguing resume, an attractive record in the Beehive State, and the potential to appeal to the social, economic and national-security branches of the GOP coalition. Along the way, he offered his own solid proposals on tax reform and too-big-to-fail banks, and he was the only candidate to wholeheartedly endorse Paul Ryan's Medicare reform.
Yet his agenda never had a chance to resonate because he began his campaign by agreeing with the political left that Republicans have a "serious problem" because they are too often "antiscience" on such issues as global warming and evolution. Mr. Huntsman had a conservative record but often sounded while campaigning as if he didn't want to be associated with conservatives. This pleased the media because it reinforced their biases, but it naturally turned off GOP audiences.
Strangely for a man of his overseas experience, Mr. Huntsman also chose to run to the left of President Obama on Afghanistan and U.S. national security. This also lacks appeal in the GOP, save for the Ron Paul precincts that Mr. Huntsman had little chance of winning. In New Hampshire, where he focused his campaign, Mr. Huntsman drew mainly moderate and liberal voters, which is what an endorsement from the Boston Globe gets you.
Perhaps Mr. Huntsman wasn’t aware that while the likes of David Frum are still perched on it, the unRepublican branch of the GOP is really nothing more than a slender twig not capable of supporting a serious candidate for president.