Do Jon Huntsman and Joe Manchin Have Independent Presidential Aspirations?

While we're on the topic of Chris Christie and independent political movements, here's an interesting item from No Labels, the grassroots organization dedicated to bipartisan problem-solving: Republican Jon Huntsman and Democrat Joe Manchin are its new national leaders.

Could this mean that the former Utah governor and the senator from West Virginia have national ambitions? Yes: Operatives close to both men say that Huntsman and Manchin, like most successful politicians, consider themselves presidential timber.

And might their national ambitions conflict with the ossified ideology of their particular parties? Yes: Manchin, a former West Virginia governor, is a conservative Democrat in a left-moving party. Christie, ideologically conservative, ticked off partisan colleagues by applauding President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy.

As I wrote on Thursday morning, Christie's broadside against House GOP leadership is a savvy political move. It suits the times, if not his party.

"As governors, both Jon Hunstman and Joe Manchin developed well-earned reputations as problem solvers," said No Labels cofounder Mark McKinnon in a release announcing the new leadership. "That's precisely the attitude we need more of in Washington."

Via Twitter, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman disputed the contention in my Christie post that the New Jersey governor "may be the smartest man in politics." But he added in a follow-up tweet, "Totally agree on voter frustration."

We caught up by telephone. I clarified that my post was not a measure of Christie's IQ but rather his political smarts. Mellman said he agreed that the political landscape is fertile for an independent presidential bid, despite the "enormous staying power" of the Democratic and GOP parties.

"People are very frustrated. They are almost to the point of giving up," Mellman told me. "Truth is, they have given up. If not for self-imposed crises like the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling, people would have no reason to be engaged."