Jon Huntsman Finds His Voice by Sounding Like a Dad on Twitter

He's best able to play the sane candidate by making corny jokes on the Internet

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Jon Huntsman, who looks great in pictures, can be kind of boring when he talks. So when he went from a buzzed-about maybe-candidate -- seen but not heard -- to a real one, he failed to catch on. But now Huntsman appears to have found his voice, without saying anything out loud, by making corny dad jokes on Twitter.

When current media crush Rick Perry told a voter Thursday he thinks evolution is just "a theory that's out there," Huntsman, who's cast himself as the sane Republican in the race, tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
"Obviously feeling liberated," as the Los Angeles Times' James Oliphant put it, Huntsman got bolder: "I wonder if a tweet where I admit how much I like Captain Beefheart will make the followers skyrocket even more!" (Huntsman's campaign has made a big deal about his high school cover band and love of rock.)
Friday, Huntsman's tweeting was picked up in Mike Allen's widely-read Playbook. Then he got the social media seal of approval from Caroline McCarthy, editor of Google's Think Quarterly, who tweeted "Sane insights on evolution aside, his Twitter account is all 'dorky sitcom dad runs for president,' and it's amazing." Perhaps the candidate took that as even more encouragement. He traded jokes with The Office's Rainn Wilson, asking "I'm proud to be Republican, party of Lincoln, Teddy, Reagan. My q for you. Any relation to Brian Wilson?" An hour later, he took another shot at a Republican with a reputation for being a little nuts: Christine O'Donnell, who walked out on CNN's Piers Morgan Wednesday. "@PiersMorgan - Looking forward to being on Monday's show. Will try and have as much fun as @ChristineOD did," the Republican wrote.
Finally, the Huntsman campaign's plan seems to be working. As Jacob Weisberg writes in a prfofile of Huntsman in the September issue of Vogue,
Like Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Bruce Babbitt in 1988, and John McCain in 2000, Huntsman seems already to have become a media darling -- a thinking person's candidate whose candor shines a light on the evasions of his rivals, even if it fails to change the outcome of the race. ...
The resemblance to McCain’s authentic, accessible run in 2000 (as opposed to McCain’s cranky, conventional one in 2008) is not a coincidence. John Weaver, Huntsman's chief strategist, was also McCain’s in 2000 and was partly responsible for its freewheeling tone.
Looks like the strategy is paying off -- as long as Huntsman limits his brave takedowns of party orthodoxy to jokes on the Internet.
Update: Adweek's Dylan Byers reports that Huntsman has a ghost tweeter! "Governor Huntsman suggests tweets and sees all the tweets," spokesman Tim Miller told Byers. But Huntsman has a single collaborator who Miller refused to name. Who is the mystery tweeter?!
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