Outsider Huntsman Seeks Inside Track in 2012 Bid

Monday, 27 Jun 2011 01:44 PM

By Dan Weil

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Jon Huntsman appears to be the consummate outsider in the Republican presidential race: a moderate former governor of Utah, who served until recently as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China.

Jon Huntsman, GOP, president,But outsiders have made it to the White House in recent history — from former actor Ronald Reagan, to little-known Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, to novice Sen. Obama, Politico reports. And the news service goes through a list of Huntsman’s strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some of them.

Strengths
  • The political environment is in an unsettled state, with fed-up voters switching back and forth between parties during the past few elections. That might give a leg up to Huntsman, who also served in the administrations of Reagan and President George H.W. Bush.
  • Huntsman may be the wealthiest candidate in the race. He’s good-looking, articulate and well-versed on the issues — plus, he has a history of success in politics.
  • Despite Huntsman’s reputation as a moderate, he was elected governor twice in the very conservative state of Utah. And Republicans proved willing to nominate maverick Sen. John McCain for president just three years ago.
  • Huntsman’s service in the Obama administration may be seen as a sign of patriotism rather than heresy.
  • He may have the best chance of defeating Obama — “his main selling point,” as Politico puts it.
  • Skipping Iowa’s caucuses, all Huntsman may have to do is register respectable results in New Hampshire and South Carolina to reach Florida, where his fortunes could rebound. He may indeed show strength in New Hampshire and South Carolina, which allow independents to vote in their Republican primaries.
  •  
Weaknesses
  • “He’s got the wrong issues for a Republican nominating contest. And he’s got the wrong persona, especially for this angry moment in GOP politics,” Politico states. Those may be his two biggest obstacles.
  • Huntsman’s civility may backfire. The soft volume of his voice sometimes makes it difficult for even his aides to hear him at events. The GOP’s conservative base is eager for a fighter, not a diplomat.
  • Front-runner Mitt Romney, also a moderate, may push the low-key Huntsman to the sidelines with an aggressive, disciplined campaign.
  • The former ambassador’s service for Obama makes him a non-starter for many Republican voters. And it’s not clear he’s ready for a head-to-head match-up with the president.
  • Huntsman’s support so far comes from the Republican establishment and the media rather than rank-and-file Republican voters. “I just don’t know how this works,” a former Republican official tells Politico. “It’s a great idea . . . He’s actually intelligent, and has actually been outside the United States. He speaks Chinese. He’s handsome. What’s not to like? But how do you make it through this primary? It’s a complete media creation so far.”
  • Apart from the weaknesses that Politico cites, influential conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., says he won’t support Huntsman because the candidate won’t sign a "cut, cap, balance" pledge to shrink spending big-time and balance the budget. "For me, he's out," DeMint said of Huntsman Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Meanwhile, Huntsman is ratcheting up his fundraising, Politico reports. The campaign has sent out a letter saying it needs to raise $200,000 over the Internet by the “very important fundraising deadline of this Thursday, June 30th.” That would allow Huntsman to bulk up the contributions he reports for the second quarter.


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