Jon Huntsman plans to enter the Republican 2012 Presidential contest today. His entry seems to indicate an unwillingness to cede the nomination to Mitt Romney from the insider branch of the party. Right now, he is the media darling candidate, similar to McCain in 2000. It is unclear at this point what his support is among grass-roots voters.
Biography – He has a long history of working in Presidential administrations, having served for each President since Reagan, with the exception of Clinton. Huntsman was a White House staff assistant for Reagan, Ambassador to Singapore under Bush 41, Deputy Trade Representative for Bush 43, and Ambassador to China under Obama. In 2004, Huntsman was elected Governor of Utah and was re-elected in 2008.
His father, Jon Huntsman Sr., is a major Republican mover and shaker, and the owner of Huntsman Corporation. Huntsman dropped out of high school to play keyboard in a rock band; later, he received a GED and got a college degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Assets – As I wrote earlier, Huntsman seems to be the flavor of the month in the media. This probably reflects the uneasiness with the other insider candidate, Romney, and the inability of any other mainstream candidate to gain traction. As well, he has an economic record that makes him acceptable to the CFG, having cut taxes and developing a business-friendly environment while Governor of Utah.
He also has a record while Governor of being pro-life and loosened gun regulations in the state. Because of his resume of being an ambassador in two Asian states, he has a knowledge of foreign affairs that exceeds that of the other candidates, with the possible exception of Michelle Bachmann. Finally, he has the support of Glenn Beck. Although this is unlikely to help him in primary states, Beck has a devoted core of followers that may help Huntsman in caucus states.
Deficiencies – Huntsman, as was written earlier, was Ambassador to China under Obama. It’s hard to imagine how Republican primary voters will find this very appealing in many parts of the country. He, like Romney, is one of the elites in the Church of Latter-day Saints. In some regions of the nation, where religion remains important, this is problematic.
Huntsman has developed an eclectic mix of positions that would seem to make it easy for other Republicans in the field to attack him. He supports civil unions for gays, providing him support from Log Cabin Republicans. He intends to run a campaign where he refrains from attacking Obama personally, instead pointing out a difference in economic policies. He has called for an end, or at least a reduction, in our involvement in Afghanistan, leading the Neo-Cons to go after his candidacy, before he has even announced.
Campaign – Huntsman, right now, since so many of the other mainstream candidates have decided not to challenge either Romney or Obama, and the demise of Pawlenty’s candidacy, becomes one of the two mainstream finalists in the Republican race. Like Romney, he has decided not to contest the Iowa contest, ostensibly because he opposes ethanol subsidies.
Instead, he probably intends to throw all of his resources into New Hampshire, hoping to defeat Mitt there. Since Mitt’s support nationally is thought to be shallow, this may portend the financial base of the party to switch their support to him.