Douthat on Huntsman
Ross Douthat on Jon Hunstman:
his salesmanship has been staggeringly inept. Huntsman’s campaign was always destined to be hobbled by the two years he spent as President Obama’s ambassador to China. But he compounded the handicap by introducing himself to the Republican electorate with a series of symbolic jabs at the party’s base.
He picked high-profile fights on two hot-button issues — evolution and global warming — that were completely irrelevant to his candidacy’s rationale. He let his campaign manager define his candidacy as a fight to save the Republican Party from a “bunch of cranks.” And he embraced his identity as the media’s favorite Republican by letting the liberal journalist Jacob Weisberg write a fawning profile for Vogue.
The problem with this analysis is that it presupposes that Huntsman, a basically unknown figure on the national stage prior to the current contest, would have started off higher in the polls but for his “staggeringly inept” salesmanship.
However, the truth of the matter is that Huntsman was doomed from the start for two basic reasons:
1. The aforementioned unknown-ness. It is almost impossible to go from utter unknown to serious candidate (even Herman Cain at least had a small talk radio based following to use as a launching point). Nobody knew who Huntsman was until he was nominated to be the US Ambassador to China (quick: who’s the current governor of Utah?).
2. He has no populist/Tea Party appeal. Zero.
In short: I reject Douthat’s thesis that Huntsman’s single-digit status is the result of “blunders” and “political malpractice.” That Huntsman ever had a chance is pundit-based fantasy, especially amongst conservatives who want an intellectually respectable candidate to support.