Finale on Huntsman 2016 (Until 2016 or So)

By James Fallows

To wrap this up, and because I lack the stomach to write about the latest South Carolina GOP debate*, here are some final items looking backward-and-forward on the Jon Huntsman campaign. Final, that is, until three or four years from now.

abc_jon_huntsman_nt_120116_wmain.jpgFirst, from a reader who differs with the dismissive estimate I quoted yesterday:

I have to disagree with Joseph Britt's analysis of Huntsman's future prospects. Compare where Romney was after dropping out in 08 compared to where Huntsman is now. What did Romney do between now and then? Run his PAC, write a book, and build his infrastructure. Why couldn't Huntsman do all the same things? His family's wealth is more than sufficient to fund the skeleton staff Our Destiny would need to stay on the radar. And as for a book - no doubt he has some interesting things to say about China, an issue which is going to become more pertinent over the next four years. Romney became the voice of the "money wing" of the party by doing these things. I don't see why Huntsman couldn't do the same.
 
Huntsman has four years to learn how to be a decent politician and carve out a sizeable-enough niche for himself in the party. He's the only defeated candidate for nominee who has enough credibility to be viable in 2016. I wouldn't underestimate a smart, handsome, sometimes-charming Governor just because he faces a few obstacles.

Now, from a reader who likes Huntsman -- and that's the problem:

To me Huntsman represented a sort of sane economic conservatism which I disagree with but can respect matched with a social tolerance that seems about on par with most Democrats. He wasn't necessarily my guy (although his China experience and general world savvy might have put him over the top in a match up with Obama, especially if I was willing to bet on him dragging his party ahead) but I certainly would have approved of him as a candidate and not been heartbroken or terrified if he won. Of course he has no future in Republican primaries.

And:

The GOP, as is, couldn't imagine supporting JH.  If he had entered the race with his eye firmly on '16, so that 4 years hence he's be remembered as the sane, non-pandering one, it would have been a strategy with a chance for a payoff.
 
Without that clear eye, he was sane for a bit, and then pandered for a bit--essentially wrecking his "sane" brand for the future.  Taking up the "class war" tag as his farewell address, he's pretty totally fouled his own nest.  He doesn't seem to have any upward route anymore.

Finally, from my friend CO:

One other (I think large) problem Huntsman will have if he wants to run again is that if Romney is the nominee and loses, there is awfully little chance that four years from now the party is going to think, "hey, maybe this time we should nominate a rich but ideologically suspect Mormon ex-governor." (And if Romney wins the election, then 2016 is obviously off the table.)

It is worth re-emphasizing that any Huntsman 2016 scenario depends on the assumption of this year's GOP nominee, presumably Romney, losing.

For now, that is all.
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* Debate Dog Whistle #1, Rick Perry: "South Carolina is at war with this federal government." You know, South Carolina is not really the best place to use this metaphor.

Dog Whistle #2, Newt: Obama is the "food stamp President."

Jesus. But when I remember that during my lifetime I have seen "white" and "colored" signs on bathrooms and drinking fountains, maybe we have come some distance. But still. A coincidence that the GOP's stronghold is the old Confederacy? I have begun to think not.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/01/finale-on-huntsman-2016-until-2016-or-so/251485/