Where Jon Huntsman went wrong

The current reality of the political scene is that republicans are looking at an imminently vulnerable President Obama and yet we have on one to beat him. 

With the fall of Bachmann, Perry, Cain and eventually Gingrich we will be left with no real candidates that have the appeal or war chest to take on Romney in the primaries.  I have often found myself wondering, “what about Governor Jon Huntsman?”  Why isn’t he in the fight? 

The guy has a conservative and successful record.  He is a republican governor, who ran a state more efficiently than Mitt Romney, a business man that ran a business more efficiently than Herman Cain and a candidate who has more foreign policy experience than the other eight candidates combined.  The media keeps asking why conservatives haven’t take a second look at him.  If Jon Huntsman wants to know why we haven’t taken a second look at him, he should look in the mirror. 

In retrospect, Huntsman could’ve carved out a path to victory.  He has essentially captured defeat from the jaws of victory.  This is a guy with a conservative record that could have chosen to introduce himself to the primary electorate as a conservative.  Instead, he decided that the republican primary needed a fifty year old former governor, political moderate, Mormon with salt-and-pepper hair.  Unfortunately for Huntsman, we already had that guy and he’s been running for President for the last four years.  Thus, Huntsman joined the race as the media darling and the poor man’s Mitt Romney.  What’s funny, is that Jon Huntsman is the opposite of Mitt Romney. 

While Romney is a conservative talker with a liberal record,

Jon Huntsman is a liberal talker with a conservative record.

But one can’t help but wonder, why sell yourself as a moderate in a republican primary? 

His record alone shows you a governor that was largely successful, with the exception of his civil union law.  But Huntsman seems to be the guy who always finds a way to spurn conservative primary voters and it has proved to be the worst campaign strategy since Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to skip Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina on the way to the White House. 

It has become increasingly apparent that Jon Huntsman’s team has run the worst campaign of this entire season, worst than Cain or Perry’s campaign gaffe’s combined.  As conservatives find themselves desperate for a successful conservative that can create jobs, Huntsman campaigns as a common-sense moderate.  The only problem is, this is a republican primary.  The wisdom of his plan is reflected in the numbers of republicans supporting him in the primaries, somewhere around . . . 1%. 

Buy why?

In Utah, he helped the private sector create jobs, obtain health care options for the poor and run a state government efficiently. 

Then Huntsman introduced himself to the electorate as a media darling by insulting the base.  The obvious number one rule of politics is to not insult your base.  But Huntsman did.  He ran the media gambit.  He insulted the social conservative bases of Iowa and South Carolina by arrogantly preaching that he alone “believed in science.”  He bragged about how he created equal rights for people living homosexual lifestyles through civil unions and he made little attempt to demonstrate to the base that he was one of us.  Instead, he kissed up to the media.  Over and over they touted his name, but he went nowhere.  On talk radio, drudge, hotair.com, redstate.com and even Foxnews he was never mentioned but remained “every democrat’s favorite republican.”  Maybe he saw a path to victory in open primaries.  But, he failed to create excitement, and it wasn’t because he wasn’t extreme, it was because he didn’t talk about the issues the base cared about.

If he had simply run on his record and nuanced himself on the issues where he strayed from the base, he would be our nominee.  He is after all, one of the most qualified candidates running.  He could have promised the base that although he did believe in anthropologic global warming, he would not sign a cap-and-trade bill into law; he could have avoided the Evolution vs. creation debate by pushing a charter school vouchers agenda rather than putting down his base that believes in intelligent design.  Vouchers are where the fight is anyway!  Instead of focusing on how he believed special rights should be created for homosexual Americans, he could have doubled down on the life issue to gain conservative support and focused on the fact that he still wanted to at least protect the “M” word (either way he would have some explaining to do to evangelicals).  Instead Huntsman came off as contemptuous towards the base and the feelings were mutual. 

Now his campaign is dead.  He will not be the president of the United States.  But Huntsman actually has the opportunity to run again in 2016 and win, but only if he runs as a conservative.  He could be a very good candidate.  Base voters don’t expect you to pander, what they do expect is that you talk about all aspects of conservatism and why they are right. 

Unfortunately, Huntsman seemed to feel more at home distinguishing himself from conservatives on CNN with Candy Crawley, than participating in Senator Jim DeMint’s debate on conservatism.       

To be clear, conservatives wouldn’t have automatically endorsed Huntsman, but they would have liked to have given him a look.  But his priorities seemed misplaced.  His official website states nothing about school choice, life issues, planned parenthood funding, protecting the family, immigration or anything else socially conservative.  Nothing.  There isn’t a single socially conservative paragraph on his website.  Jon, where are your priorities?  If a candidate cannot even outline their particular views on their website, it sends the message that they really don’t care.  In reality, David Brooks-Americans vote democrat not republican.  You are a candidate without a base of support.    

No candidate can become president without all three legs of the republican party.  You have to be strong on defense, fiscally conservative and socially conservative.  Two out of three won’t work. 

If Huntsman decides to run again in 2016, and I hope that he does (as long as he comes around on the marriage issue), his campaign will need to tighten the reins on your interviews to ensure that your message is getting out.  The only message I heard was how you were less conservative than all of the other candidates.  It demonstrates a lack of focus when you let the media create a “why can’t conservatives be more like this guy” narrative.  You are supposed to represent US, republicans, not be every democrat’s favorite republican.     

If Jon Huntsman could have a “do-over” from June onward, he could be the nominee.  Ultimately, it is positive for conservatives that Huntsman didn’t play his cards differently because if he had, we may not have known what were in for during the General.  At least we got to know him a little.  In the end conservatives want the smartest and most accomplished guy in the pack to be their nominee, they just don’t want it at the expense of conservatism.  Next time, Huntsman should run on his record towards his base, not away from it.