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Huntsman Lining Up Big Names

C. Boyden Gray, former White House Counsel and EU Ambassador, has signed on as the chair of the Jon Huntsman policy team, Mark Halperin reports. He sees this as a major sign:

This is the first, but by no means the last, of eye-catching endorsements Huntsman will get from the GOP Establishment, including many with ties to Ronald Reagan and Bushes 41 and 43. Gray’s endorsement will be a semiotic dog whistle for a lot of big-time bundlers. It doesn’t mean Huntsman will get the nomination, of course, but combined with the Wall Street and corporate America backing he is already in line to receive, it will give him a leg up on becoming the Romney Alternative. And, at this point, becoming the Romney Alternative is the whole ball of wax.

Gray (who, in full disclosure, is a member of the Atlantic Council board of directors) is a consummate political insider, having clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren, served in a number of prominent roles in government going back to the Reagan administration, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton. He’s also a founding co-chairman of FreedomWorks.

Does this mean that Huntsman is likely to become the Republican nominee? No. But I can’t imagine Gray would waste his time on a lost cause, either; so, clearly, he believes Huntsman has a real shot at the vice presidency, if not the nomination.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    I think Huntsman is, quite savvily, laying the foundation for a moderate GOP resurgence after Obama wins in 2012. Given the names associated with him, I wonder if there isn’t a moderate conspiracy brewing in the GOP.

    The moderate insurgency will be hampered in its efforts if Romney is the nominee, but I still think it’s got a good shot. Personally, I think that Michelle Bachmann has a better shot at being the nominee than anybody is comfortable with. If she’s the nominee, then inevitably crashes and burns in the general, Huntsman’s going to look really good.

    I like Huntsman. I’d vote for him, even against Obama, if moderates were a stronger voice in the GOP. If he’s successful in building a big moderate GOP bloc, I look forward to voting for him in 2016.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    Could be. I think something like Huntsman’s agenda is inevitably the GOP’s future if it wants to be something other than a regional party in a decade.

    It wouldn’t shock me in the least to see a Romney-Huntsman ticket this go-round. Although the danger in that is that, since Obama is likely to win regardless, the die-hards would once again draw the lesson that we lost because we were too moderate.

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  3. Doubter says:

    They are going to do that anyway.
    I like Huntsman, and I’m pretty centrist.
    To be transparent – I did go to school in Utah (go Utes!) and love the state, but I have not lived there for a long while.

    The newer social firebrands aside, the Mormon’s whip up a pretty independent streak of people, and The Mountain West is a disparate place – lots of conservatives, that’s true (No. Idaho is practically a tribal state these days), but there is a self reliance aspect to the people in the region, without the bravado of jackasses in ten gallon hats from other places.

    That’s why you’ll see people in states like Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico addressing locally the issues that matter to everyone – immigration, energy production, Interstate commerce, farming and meat production in fairly reasonable ways (given the times we live in). I’m leaving Arizona out of this since it seems the politicians there have collectively lost their minds, but for the rest, I think the generalization holds

    I think Huntsman gets this and I hope he does not feel the need to tack way right to get the nod – he’ll alienate the people like me who’d be interested in giving him a chance.

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  4. mattb says:

    @Alex: I see what you are saying, but don’t you think that Romney has begun a process of betting on a “moderate” revolution? Between the climate change stance and avoiding signing the pledges, it feels like he’s doing everything he can not to alienate independents — even if that means not pandering as directly to the base?

    @James: if Huntsman is serious, I don’t think he’d take the VP position — unless of course all signs point to an Obama defeat. A national loss in a Veep position seems like the stuff that kills future presidential hopes in the current climate.

    Plus do you think the GOP is prepared for a double-mormon ticket.

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  5. An Interested Party says:

    Could be. I think something like Huntsman’s agenda is inevitably the GOP’s future if it wants to be something other than a regional party in a decade.

    But what kind of war within the GOP would have to take place before this future is possible? I suspect there are more than a few conservative Republicans who despise this idea of the future and will do quite a bit to ensure that it does not happen…

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