It was designed for a charismatic Obama-type, not the moderate and modulated former diplomat from Utah.
"I'm tremendously bullish on the governor's chances should he run," a senior adviser to Jon Huntsman's political apparatus-to-be told me in May. At the time, the former American ambassador to China's biological rhythms were still out of sync from his 10,000 mile trip stateside from Beijing and the campaign he would go on to run -- and, on Monday, end -- could fairly be described as still in utero.
But though he was then largely an unknown to a national audience, Huntsman's reputation as something less than a doctrinaire conservative was already cemented in the political zeitgeist. After all, he had just returned from a diplomatic post under President Barack Obama, and as a governor of Utah he endorsed civil unions and reciprocal benefits for gays and lesbians. But a Massachusetts moderate, he was not: the Utahn had outlawed second-trimester abortions, championed an effective flat tax and held a hunting permit for critters larger than small varmints. As a former aide to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who had just forsworn his own White House bid, I was sold.
Then as now it appeared Mitt Romney would win his the Republican Party's presidential nod. But briefly, it seemed plausible that a young governor willing to break partisan ranks stood a chance -- however remote -- of denying Romney a coronation.