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Huntsman 2012 – The Hip Choice?

MCQ - April 30, 2011

This article on the nascent Huntsman campaign is the first one I’ve read that actually makes a credible case for how Huntsman could win a presidential race. After reading it, I’m still not sure he’s running this time around, and there seems to be some possibility he might wait until 2016, but his political strategy appears to be that he intends to pitch himself as (you ready for this?) the cool republican.

Huntsman, it turns out, has some street cred. He dropped out of high school. He played in a rock band. He rides motorcycles. He’s straight-up badass, yo. At least that appears to be how his campaign wants to present him. The question remains, though, whether this is a winning strategy for a Mormon, republican, former-governor from Utah who just finished up a stint as the U.S. Ambassador to China in a democratic administration. It’s obviously intended to capture the youth vote, but it risks alienating conservatives, who (let’s face it) are the bedrock of any republican campaign. It does do one thing very well, however: it differentiates him from Romney, who tends to alienate people by coming across as far too polished and straight-from-boardroom for some tastes.

Your thoughts? Can a Mormon candidate be successful by being hip and cool?


  1. I still think he should switch parties, win Hatch’s Senate seat when Chaffetz wipes out Hatch in the caucuses and conventions, then bide his time ’til it’s right for the presidency.

    Comment by Grant — April 30, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

  2. That sounds like a good strategy–unless the time is right in 2012.

    Comment by MCQ — April 30, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

  3. I’m not sure we need another spoiled rich kid running the country.

    Comment by Scw — April 30, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  4. I’m not sure how successful Huntsman will be at courting young voters, but I’m almost certain he will have trouble with die-hard conservatives and the Tea Party crowd.

    One would think that having served as an immensely popular governor of a deeply conservative state would win Huntsman some credibility in conservative circles. I suspect that his reasonableness and cool-headedness may be deal-breakers for the GOP base.

    Comment by Steve M — April 30, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

  5. I seriously doubt Huntsman could win a Democratic primary. Even if he did, Chaffetz would still beat him in a landslide. 60-40 easy.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 30, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  6. Huntsman has won a statewide race, twice, by a large margin. Chaffetz?

    In other words, you may be overestimating his popularity.

    Comment by MCQ — April 30, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

  7. Three reasons: (1) Switching parties wouldn’t do anything for Huntsman’s credibility. (2) With the exception of Jan Graham, a Democrat hasn’t won a statewide race in Utah for going on three decades now. (3) Chaffetz is a formidable candidate with a natural gift for politics. As a political unknown he defeated a six term congressman from his own party in a party primary by commanding margins.

    In addition to that, Huntsman skipped out on his own state, Palin style, to be no more than an ambassador. He campaigned as a conservative, but then dropped the pretense in short order once he was elected. As a consequence, if he ran again in Utah as a Republican, he might be lucky to get out of convention, let alone win a primary against a strong challenger.

    In the last convention, Bennett, who is definitely more conservative than Huntsman, came in third. Huntsman probably has about the same level of solid intra-party support.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 1, 2011 @ 12:52 am

  8. Palin style? Yes, serving as ambassador to China after 6 years as governor is just like skipping out after 2.5 years as governor to be a freak show. Mark, you are a hoot.

    Mark is right about one thing, Huntsman is more likely to be lynched at a Utah GOP Convention than he is to be nominated by one. However, that says more about the Utah GOP than it does Huntsman.

    Utah deserves Jason Chaffetz.

    Comment by Chris H. — May 1, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  9. My assessment is that Huntsman is still quite popular in Utah but I think he’d much rather go back to the family business than run for office in Utah again. He sees himself on the national or international stage now.

    Comment by MCQ — May 1, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

  10. Osama Bin Laden has been killed by order of Barack Obama. I would wager the 2012 election is settled.

    Comment by Dan — May 1, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

  11. Dan, Dan, Dan. Are you really that naive?

    Comment by MCQ — May 1, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

  12. MCQ,

    I said I would wager. I didn’t say it was settled. Republicans cannot find anyone they all like (saw a poll from Iowa where 32% of Republican respondents preferred “someone else” as their choice), and Obama has governed as best as he could under the circumstances (that’s just my view, obviously). Capturing the main bad guy tends to win you brownie points. Of course, if Obama screws up the economy, it won’t matter. But I think his chances of reelection went up tremendously. And if I were in Huntsman’s camp, I would bow out of 2012 and wait for a lustrous 2016 when Americans would supposedly tire of a Democrat in office.

    Comment by Dan — May 1, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  13. btw, bowing out of 2012 for Huntsman allows Romney one last attempt at the Republican vote. I highly doubt Romney would run again in 2016.

    Comment by Dan — May 1, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

  14. That may, in fact, turn out to be the best strategy for Huntsman and for Romney. I don’t think that they are best served by running against each other.

    As for the bin Laden news, there’s no doubt that it will give the president a popularity boost. Conservatives will fall all over themselves trying to make sure he doesn’t get credit, but they will look stupid if they’re not willing to give him some.

    And the crazies will still be crazy. I actually heard someone on FB loudly proclaiming that bin Laden was innocent and 9/11 was staged by the gov’t. It boggles the mind.

    Comment by MCQ — May 2, 2011 @ 12:14 am

  15. My favorite report on FB re Osama was that Trump wouldn’t believe it until he saw the death certificate.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 2, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  16. Chris H, I grant that quitting the governorship to serve as an ambassador is much more respectable than quitting to serve as some sort of at large political activist. It shows an enormous level of disrespect to the state nonetheless.

    An ambassadorship is the sort of job that can effectively be filled by any low grade diplomat. No power, no authority, just an administrative job with lots of perks. Compared to the governorship of even the smallest of states, it is a non-entity.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 2, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  17. I like Huntsman. I used to think he’d make his real run in 2016, but judging by the current Republican field, he might have a decent chance in 2012.

    By the way, he was in a progressive rock band. Not sure that gives him any points on the coolness scale, although I do think it shows that he has his own tastes and isn’t simply liking something because he thinks it will get him more votes. (In other words, he may be the anti-Romney). In any case, he’s the only Republican candidate I’d vote for. And not just because he has awesome taste in music.

    Comment by Tim — May 2, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  18. Chris H

    There are various types of ambassadorships. Each of these need different types of people. In many cases “low grade diplomat” does not cut. To wit:

    1. Money. There are some ambassadorships that require people to pay large sums out of their own pocket. Great Britain and France are key examples of that. President Clinton’s choice of Pamela Harriman to France was a master stroke. FDR’s choice of Joseph Kennedy to The Court of St. James was a disaster because of his sympathies for Germany.

    2. Skill needed: There are some postings where you send the very best. The Soviet Union is a key example. Presidents of both parties sent the best. Generally Germany. Japan,China, and any hot spot of the moment get the very best. Often very able non-career diplomats get these posts (e.g.Huntsman and the First Bush to China.

    3. Political Appointees. You give a lot of money to the President’s campaign, you become Ambassador to the Bahamas. Shirley Temple Black served as ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia doing a great job (many argue that she was a true diplomat from Ghana on). Some have been unmitigated disasters. Recently th ambassador to Luxemborg (an auto heirous) who drove the embassy staff crazy had to resign. These ambassaors do not want to go to Niger or any place that is not “nice.”

    4. Training ground: Career diplomats get Paraguay or Sierra Leone. This is where your low level diplomat gets his training.

    Comment by Stan Beale — May 3, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

  19. Stan, I think you were responding to Mark.

    Comment by Chris H. — May 3, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

  20. Maybe he can use *Jay Wiz* as his hip hop name. Serious street cred!

    Comment by larryco_ — May 6, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  21. “In any case, he’s the only Republican candidate I’d vote for. And not just because he has awesome taste in music.”

    tim: I couldn’t agree more.

    Comment by larryco_ — May 6, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  22. Stan, I completely agree that some skill and experience is desirable in those chosen to be ambassador to any significant country we have strained relations with.

    My point is that an ambassador is strictly speaking a functionary with no executive authority except over the operations of the embassy itself, and that is a major step down in influence and authority from being the chief executive of even the smallest of states.

    No one, when looking for presidential material, inquires whether someone has been the ambassador to anywhere, with the possible exception of ambassador to the U.N.

    The first and foremost consideration is whether someone has been the governor of some state, second whether he/she has been a United States Senator, third served a significant leadership role in the House of Representatives, fourth commanded the military during a World War, perhaps fifth other types of executive, legislative, and foreign policy experience.

    So while I agree that this position polishes Huntman’s presidential resume to some degree, it certainly seems to me like skipping out on the state to be a non-elected official with much less influence than the White House press secretary.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 8, 2011 @ 12:00 am

  23. No one has less influence than the WHPS, because most people don’t believe a word the press secretary says, unless he or she is quoting the president directly.

    Comment by MCQ — May 8, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

  24. The White House press secretary can sure create an enormous controversy in a hurry. Influence wise, it is true that a press secretary isn’t supposed to have any. An ambassador isn’t supposed to have much either, especially in the modern era. All the important decisions are made back in Washington.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 8, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

  25. He has sure been in the news a lot within the last few days. It seems that he is pretty well-respected. They say that we need good people running as in not just one good person running. May the best man or woman win!

    Comment by Barb — May 21, 2011 @ 10:31 am

  26. There are no women running Barb.

    Comment by MCQ — May 22, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  27. Michelle Bachmann?

    Comment by mfranti — May 23, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  28. You can’t be serious.

    Comment by MCQ — May 23, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

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