Thus far, in the continual carousel of GOP frontrunners, we’ve had Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and, of course, the fixture, Mitt Romney. Tim Pawlenty ran out of money and dropped out too early to have his day in the sun, Ron Paul is the guy a few people love and the rest of us like from a distance, and Rick Santorum has fallen victim to “fighting the
last second-to-last war” syndrome — everything out of his mouth seems tailor made for 2004.
But what about Jon Huntsman? When is it his turn as King of the Mountain? Indeed, a Chicago Tribune article came out last week asking this very question: ”Why Not Jon Huntsman?” Here’s a guy with a great domestic governing record, consistent fiscal conservative credentials, no health care reform baggage (he was a market solutions guy in Utah), and the only significant foreign policy experience of *any* GOP candidate or wannabe candidate (Christie, Ryan, Daniels, Jindal, and Barbour included). So what’s taking so long for the GOP to embrace him?
Well, he did have that moment on climate change. And he supports civil unions for same-sex couples. Oh, and there was that bit about being Obama’s ambassador to China. These are the conventional reasons people disqualify him. But I don’t buy any of them. I mean, remember, Rick Perry mandates vaccines and opposes “heartless” immigration policy, Newt wants to send your children to work as janitors, Mitt passed Obamacare lite in Massachusetts — and they’ve all been embraced by voters for a time. Indeed, Huntsman’s break with the orthodoxy are really pretty minor.
No, there’s something more at play here, and I read an article a few days ago that I think hits it right on the head: ”Huntsman: The Candidate Killed by Style.” Here’s a quote:
Huntsman seems to muster more animosity toward his fellow candidates than Obama, making him seem like an outsider to many conservatives. But again, chastising Rick Perry and Mitt Romney for bickering, is not an issue of substance…it is an issue of style.
But let me be clear about this…Jon Huntsman has contributed to the stylistic cross upon which his campaign has been crucified. From his overly thought out “H” logo…to his hipster motorcycle ads…to his snarky jokes on the debate stage…to his daughters’ SNL-style spoof of Herman Cain’s smoking ad…Jon Huntsman is playing the presidential version of a mean girl. Everything is calculated for effect. Everything filtered through “cool”. And it comes off as condescending.
Some, like my friend SE Cupp, would say that Huntsman stands to the left of the Republican Party on many big issues such as civil unions and foreign policy. And I would say, first that there is a great debate taking place on the right about both of these issues. But…I truthfully don’t think many conservative voters have judged the merits of Jon Huntsman’s positions. I think they see a condescending man who worked for Obama and immediately dismiss him. And in a way, I don’t blame them.
The lesson for Huntsman, though, is…don’t do this. The lesson for conservative voters is, in the words of Barry Goldwater (yes, again), “to disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable.” We should judge these candidates on their substance, not their style, because in the words of Jon Huntsman: voters “should not confuse a moderate temperament with a moderate record.”
Is Jon Huntsman’s problem that he goes around acting like he thinks knows he’s better than everyone he’s running against? And when I say “better,” I don’t mean the typical “I’m the guy you need to do the job — not him” type of better. I’m talking about the “you’re stupid and I’m not” type of better. I think this is definitely part of it.
But I believe there’s even more to it than this. After all, Huntsman didn’t start out his campaign attacking every other conservative in sight. In fact, ironically, he started out with a pledge of civility. He went into attack mode because he couldn’t get any traction.
No, Jon Huntsman, despite being a solid conservative, often acts a bit like the liberal elite that conservatives distrust. Everything about him says “intellectual”–and more the Obama type of intellectual than the Gingrich type of intellectual. And when you combine that with the fact that, during his campaign, Huntsman has run around like he’s trying to save the Republican Party from itself — you don’t have to stretch far to see why conservative primary voters may have been reluctant to embrace him.
No matter what his record, Jon Huntsman just doesn’t seem like a conservative to many of the voters that matter. And I worry that until he adjusts his style a little bit that reality may not change, which will be too bad for those Republicans, like me, who really like the guy and honestly believe the Republican Party needs a bit of a course correction.
I, for one, am still hoping that Huntsman gets his chance. Because I think Republicans who take a hard look at him will really like what they see.
For example, take a listen to this: