Eight years ago, Jon Huntsman was riding high as a Republican presidential hopeful.
The magnetic former Utah governor was the son of a multi-millionaire philanthropist, had a beautiful wife and seven children, spoke Chinese, and had even served as U.S. ambassador to China under Barack Obama — which worked to his undoing in the Republican primaries.
All of that was dust Wednesday morning. With absentee and mail-in ballots counted, near-final results showed Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox beating Huntsman by 36.9 to 34.2%, with state House Speaker Greg Hughes at 20.9%, and entrepreneur Thomas Wright 7.9%.
So what happened?
"This was not a rejection of Jon Huntsman," former Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., now living in Utah and a Distinguished Fellow at the Frontiers of Freedom Foundation, told Newsmax. "Not all the voters remember Jon Huntsman's time as governor, and Utah has added 400,000 people in the decade since then — the number one growth rate in the United States."
Istook also pointed out, "When voters instead thought of him as the former ambassador they did not make a clear connection of how Huntsman would benefit their lives in Utah. Spencer Cox was more clearly associated with state issues [as was Greg Hughes]."
Mark McIntosh, policy director for Huntsman's presidential campaign, told us his old boss was under fire for his recent history: he was governor and left early in his second term to be Obama's ambassador to China, then left that to run for president, and became Trump's ambassador to Russia and left that to be in the race for governor.
"Fairly or not, his political opponents effectively used the narrative that he does not finish things he starts," he said. "They simply pointed to his past as a referendum on that theme."
McIntosh called this portrayal of Huntsman "unfortunate" because "one can't question his devotion to Utah, and he would have effectively led his state as he did in the past."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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