16 January 2012

Were Huntsman and Romney the same after all?

On one hand, count me among those surprised as to why Jon Huntsman never caught fire like the rest of his rivals. Huntsman's record of actual governance was arguably more conservative than anyone else in the field. He was a strong fiscal and social conservative with actual foreign policy experience, having served as an ambassador under three different presidents. But he crafted a campaign narrative as a moderate, despite the fact that he governed from the Reagan playbook more effectively than any Republican presidential contender in recent memory. It's tough to chalk Huntsman's stunning flop up to anything other than poor instincts and a terrible advice.

(More on the "poor instincts" front: First, he obviously started his campaign off by attacking the Republican base on global warming and evolution. That's a move I'd expect out of someone like Romney who has no conservative bona fides. Second, when he sat down with Newt Gingrich at their Lincoln/Douglas forum, he didn't lay a glove on him. At the time, Gingrich was the ascendant frontrunner and, in several states, including Florida, leading the field by double-digits. This was Huntsman's opportunity to lay into Gingrich for his many apostasies. Instead, the two men traded complements all evening, and Huntsman's candidacy ended the night as moribund and unremarkable as when it began.)

On the other hand, much as I would have loved to have seen a Huntsman presidency, it is absurd that he endorsed Mitt Romney this morning. Huntsman's entire campaign was centered around tearing down Romney in New Hampshire, and just days later he reverses and endorses him? Of course politicians pander; we've come to expect that. And of course one-time challengers end up endorsing their party's nominee once the primary has finished. But we are barely out of New Hampshire, and the holes in the frontrunner's candidacy are myriad and well-defined. A week ago, Huntsman was bludgeoning Romney for flip-flopping on a laundry list of issues and implying that his incessant pandering was a betrayal of the public's trust. Now, Huntsman is apparently a surrogate. I'm not sure if the word "shallow" does this about-face justice.

Certainly, Huntsman is concerned about his brand, and pulling out after a semi-respectable 3rd-place finish in New Hampshire means his campaign will have ended on a nominal upswing. Fine. He is undoubtedly concerned with protecting the Huntsman brand for the next election cycle. But why Huntsman had to endorse Romney immediately after quitting shows that he doesn't care one bit how demagogic his actions appear. What are his supporters supposed to think?

If his 120-hour turnabout tells us anything about Huntsman, it's that he's more like Romney than he'd like us to believe: He'll apparently say anything, or do anything, to keep his political prospects alive.


The Liberal Elitist said...

While Huntsman may be conservative in many regards I feel that his moderate tone and lack of extremity is what caused the rotating front-runner status to work its way around him. In a field of extremes and flip flops he was always the guy that made sense and yet blended into the fold.

His (not god) stance supporting global warming and evolution is opposed by a shrinking (yet increasingly vocal) few. He took the sides of the scientists and historians, not the partisan loud mouths. As the only candidate to stand up to this growing embarrassment he isolated himself from those that typically vote in primaries and was already in the middle (where any candidate will move) for the general election. It could be seen as a lack of political smarts on his part or attempting to not associate nearly all scholars.

His endorsement of Romney is silly after such a short period of time and makes it seem that his attacks were baseless or without understanding on his part. Yet anyone that does not see Romney's lock on the nomination at this point is clearly not paying close enough attention. Rick Santorum and New Gingrich are so extreme that they do not have a chance. If they did win Obama wins in a landslide.
Ron Paul is continuously disregarded by the party as "the crazy guy we have to put up with". Huntsman is supporting who we all know to be the nominee, albeit hypocritical.

Stephen Colbert for president of South Carolina!!!

Yours truly,
The liberal elitist

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