Today the Campaign Begins – Jon Huntsman Declares His Candidacy
As PGH has alluded to several times over recent months, we expect Jon Huntsman to be a serious candidate for the 2012 presidency. Today he starts to woo the Republican party. PGH will have much more in upcoming posts, but today Huntsman makes it official as he makes his kickoff announcement at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. With a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty and a historical connection to Ronald Reagan, Huntsman seeks to front-and-center his far-right-of-center conservative bona fides. And he just might succeed.
Unlike most of the Republican candidates for President, Huntsman is no joke. He is a former Governor and former Ambassador, most recently President Obama’s Ambassador to China. He has been a Washington insider going back to Reagan (who ironically wouldn’t pass the muster for the tea party extremist wing of the GOP).
In short, Huntsman is Romney without Romneycare. Like Romney he is Mormon, which may or may not be a problem for the die hard tea partiers who think that the 1st Amendment applies only to “the right kind of Christian” (and no Muslims), with Mormonism (the Church of Latter Day Saints) falling in that ambivalent region at best. Like Romney, Huntsman is a former Governor. Like Romney he looks presidential (what is it with the perfect hair). And like Romney, he will be fighting for the same supporters and donors. And also like Romney, Huntsman will pretty much ignore the Iowa caucuses in favor of a big showing in New Hampshire (with the hopes of a slingshot effect into South Carolina and Nevada). In short, Huntsman is a lot like Romney, but, Huntsman hopes, not Romney.
There are other some negatives, one of which is how well he worked with President Obama, which is anathema to the “make no compromises” extremists, birthers, and xenophobes in the tea party. He has also “adjusted his positions” to be more “tea party friendly,” while ironically claiming on his campaign site that he doesn’t flip flop (a direct dig at Romney). So like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Romney, Huntsman will try to be both “centrist” and “far right tea party conservative extremist.” That will be a delicate balance. And the further he (they) go to the far right in order to get the tea party vote in the primaries, the harder it will be to credibly tack back to center for the general election.
So today Jon Huntsman begins his campaign, which can be summed up as “I’m not Mitt Romney, but I’m pretty darn close. So vote for me and you get someone who isn’t a nut job but also didn’t lose in 2008.”