I have no idea how things will turn out for Jon Huntsman in this campaign. Maybe the party will give in to its increasingly evident gag-reflex about Mitt Romney -- and also gag on Newt Gingrich, as it has already done with candidates Bachmann, Perry, and Cain. Then unless it's ready to go with Rick Santorum or Ron Paul, that would leave ... Huntsman. Or maybe not.
However the rest of the Huntsman 2012 campaign goes, two things about it so far deserve note.
One is Huntsman's ongoing attempts to offer what in normal years would be considered "serious" policy plans.
- Last week in a debate, he (with Ron Paul) expanded on his view that it was time to cut our losses in Afghanistan, while the others were equating toughness with long-term troop presence there.
- Last week he published a CNN item arguing for a more realistic (lower-budget) military strategy. Eg, most current proposals "miss the target in two respects. First, they let resources drive strategy, rather than using strategy to drive force structure and capabilities. Second, they fail to fundamentally alter our defense posture -- so any short-term savings will be quickly erased." You could disagree in detail, but it's an improvement over the reflexive "don't cut anything" we're getting from the others except Paul.
- He also put out a plan to limit the size of super-banks, so that they never again become "too big to fail," which Simon Johnson at the NYT singled out for praise yesterday. You don't see Johnson praising other Republican candidates' economic proposals.
If it weren't for that unfortunate moment of raising his hand, robotically with all the others, to promise to veto a deficit bill skewed 10-to-1 toward spending cuts rather than tax increases, plus his embrace of the "serious" Ryan budget plan, you could say that he had played this campaign toward the sane, centrist voter every step of the way.
Here is the second thing: the guy's negative ads are brilliant. So far they have been negative only against Mitt Romney, who occupies the non-Tea Party space Huntsman would like to claim. (And thus the ads are objectively pro-Obama, if Romney does get through.) But they are deadly and merciless. A compendium of them is available at The Washington Monthly. Here's the latest, based on the same Fox interview I mentioned recently.
Another funny and very mean one is here.
I have thought for a long while that Huntsman would eventually regret entering this year's race, since the nuthouse dynamics work against him and he might end up with just a bad loss. But actual thought-through policies, and clever ads -- those are two different kind of political achievements, each of which deserves notice. Now, if he just has another chance to answer that "raise your hand" question again.
UPDATE: After the jump, a Democratic voter on the prospect of Huntsman's rise.
A reader writes:
As a dedicated lefty and unrecovered adolescent, I was looking forward to the Obama / Tea Party candidate match up as it would expose the Inane Clown Posse for what it was - inane.... Romney's pretty boring and will be the GOP's John Kerry moment (without the medals). I suppose I can still fantasize about an Obama / Gingrich match up. Newt's the raging narcissist the GOP likes to pretend Obama is and thus would not shy from the fight - I relish the bloodied rhetorical fisticuffs these two would unleash.
The adult in me thinks Huntsman would bring the exact thing this country needs - a realistic debate on where the edges of our social contract lie and how we will resolve the real issues facing our collective futures.
Sigh. Instead, more bullshit about socialists, sharia law and "look it's snowing out - where's this global warming your screaming about?"
And a reader who remembers the 2000 Democratic primaries writes of Huntsman:
He reminds me increasingly of Bill Bradley in 2000 though with solid conservative rather than liberal credentials (unlike Romney)... so while I find Huntsman's persona somewhat flat and mechanical, maybe that's just his emulation of Bill's ponderousness that did not serve him well on the stump...
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