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Obama Campaign Saw Jon Huntsman As A Threat

Republicans rejected him, but the Obama campaign viewed him as a threat:

When Obama campaign aides surveyed the field of Republican presidential hopefuls early on, they saw a certain handsome Mormon candidate and thought he’d be trouble in a general election showdown.

It wasn’t Mitt Romney.

Jon Huntsman is the former Utah governor who took a moderate stance in a GOP field that leaned to the right. He didn’t get very far in the Republican nomination fight, but team Obama viewed him as a serious candidate who could pose real problems in a general election.

“We were honest about our concerns about Huntsman,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said at a Politico breakfast event Tuesday. “I think Huntsman would have been a very tough candidate.”

As for the president, he liked Mr. Huntsman enough to appoint him ambassador to China in 2009. Mr. Messina, who was working in the White House at the time, said he helped Mr. Huntsman win Senate confirmation.

“As someone who helped manage his confirmation for Chinese ambassador, he’s a good guy,” Mr. Messina said. “We looked at his profile in a general election and thought he would have been” a formidable candidate.  Politico’s video of the remarks is here.

(…)

So, did the White House shuttle Mr. Huntsman off to China in hopes of forestalling a presidential bid? Was the Obama team looking to remove Mr. Huntsman from the “chessboard?” asked moderator Mike Allen of Politico.

“No, I thought he was a committed American who would serve our country well, and he did,” Mr. Messina replied.

If there was anyone running for President on the Republican side in 2012 other than Mitt Romney who could have given Barack Obama a run for his money, it was Jon Huntsman. Unfortunately, his campaign started off on a very bad foot at the beginning by ignoring and even alienating the base of the party, which is never a smart strategy when you’re a relative unknown running for your party’s nomination. Added to that is the fact that many conservatives disliked him, absurdly, simply because he had served as an Ambassador under President Obama, as if serving your country is a bad thing. There was a s slight Huntsman bump as the New Hampshire Primary approached, but it was too little and far too late to save a candidacy that had bet everything on the Granite State. Personally, I hope Governor Huntsman doesn’t let the 2012 experience sour him on running again in the future because he’s still got much to contribute.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    Well if Huntsman was serious about running as a Republican, he should have decided that the earth wasn’t very old after all, that Roe v Wade needed to be overturned and all abortions should be banned, that gays didn’t need all those rights, that all those Hispanic illegals needed to be deported at once, that we needed more war in the Middle East, and that we should ignore all that sciencey stuff like evolution and climate change. Above all, he needed to affirm that tax cuts for the rich cure everything.
    Since he wasn’t willing to sign on to all that, its obvious he was in the wrong party. He could try as a Democrat in 2016.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  2. Jen says:

    I would have voted for Huntsman. I believe my husband would have also. He was, and is, in my opinion, well qualified without any of the irritations that Romney brought to the table.

    As Stonetools subtly points out, a conservative (which despite the RINO labeling nonsense, is exactly what Huntsman is) who doesn’t appeal directly to the unhinged right wing will not make it through the primary. Republicans are reaping what they sowed. They were so distracted by Huntsman’s service as an ambassador, they couldn’t see the qualified choice right in front of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  3. de stijl says:

    I am stuck dumb that one of the most conservative Republicans (if not the most conservative) in the 2012 race somehow got pegged as the moderate. Apparently, conservative has been redefined to be shouty, radically right-wing, and – more than anything else – to be against whatever the Democrats are for (even if you favored that policy a few years ago).

    I remain convinced that today’s “conservatives” wouldn’t know when an actual conservative bopped them on the nose.

    Even Democrats have internalized this. Huntsman was considered to be – by Democrats – the “moderate” amongst the 2012 Republican slate basically because he wasn’t vein-popping hating on socialist Obama.

    Vitriol was a litmus test in 2012 and Huntsman did not pass that test.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  4. Geek, Esq. says:

    Huntsman’s experience showed why almost every decent Republican candidate stayed out of that race.

    They weren’t afraid to go up against Obama. They were afraid to face the Republican primary voters, who treated signs of sanity and civility as character weakness.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 1

  5. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Meh, I never gave Huntsman a chance. Tsar, Florak, and the rest of the zombies are too zombiefied to recognize a viable candidate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. Jen says:

    In other news, it looks like Iowa’s Gov. wants to chuck the straw poll. Good riddance to that circus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. de stijl says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    They were afraid to face the Republican primary voters, who treated signs of sanity and civility as character weakness.

    If I could upvote your comment more, I wouldn’t have to blockquote your moneyshot so blatantly. Best one sentence critique of the 2011 R primary clown time I’ve ever seen. Kudos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Huntsman is a good guy and a solid politician, true.

    Regarding the ’12 cycle, however, meh. If anything with Huntsman as the nominee even more Republicans would have stayed home and not voted. The Mormon thing would have been a wash vis-a-vis he and Romney. But Huntsman would not have thrown the angry right nearly enough red meat concerning immigration and China, etc.

    If a Republican manages to win the ’16 cycle he or she could do a lot worse than Huntsman for Sec. State. or for Treasury Secty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. bill says:

    must be a holiday week, just take the week off guys- there’s so much more going on in the country/world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  10. MM says:

    I am stuck dumb that one of the most conservative Republicans (if not the most conservative) in the 2012 race somehow got pegged as the moderate. Apparently, conservative has been redefined to be shouty, radically right-wing, and – more than anything else – to be against whatever the Democrats are for (even if you favored that policy a few years ago).

    If you recall, one of the first times that the GOP base got behind Romney with any passion was when his campaign bus started driving around Obama events and honking. Allen West and Michele Bachmann were the two most highly funded representatives this election cycle.

    The GOP is only truly excited by loud, dumb and brash at this point. If Huntsman wants to run in 2016, he’ll have to promise to give his opponent a wedgie at each debate and introduce his daughters as “what liberal women wish they could look like if they would put down the tofurkey and pick up a mirror”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  11. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Sadly, you’re completely right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Moosebreath says:

    @de stijl:

    “Apparently, conservative has been redefined to be shouty, radically right-wing, and – more than anything else – to be against whatever the Democrats are for (even if you favored that policy a few years ago).”

    Exactly — think of all the conservatives who cheer Chris Christie for exactly those reasons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. bk says:

    Gee, Doug, thanks for linking to an outstanding analysis by the WSJ.

    1. Our candidate lost.

    2. Had our candidate been a zombie Ronald Reagan, “Chcago” would have been scared.

    3. He wasn’t.

    4. Needmorzombies.

    5. Profit.

    Do you get paid for page views for linking to absolute bullcrap? If so, well played.

    Did I miss something?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  14. bk says:

    Ok, preemptive – YAH, I READ THE LINKED ARTICLE. I didn’t need to go here to find it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  15. al-Ameda says:

    I have no idea why Huntsman is a Republican.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  16. MarkedMan says:

    The fact that so many Republican’s viewed Huntsman as a traitor for serving in the administration just reinforces my growing stereotype of the modern GOP: They are Republican’s first and Americans second. (Realistically, the “American” slot is probably a lot farther down than second…)

    I realize this doesn’t speak for all Repubs, but it applies to a frightenly large number.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  17. Davebo says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I have no idea why Huntsman is a Republican.

    It’s the same reason Doug is. And no one has to admit it. Win Win I say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  18. swbarnes2 says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I have no idea why Huntsman is a Republican.

    He opposes marriage equality, wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and talked about the EPA’s “regulatory reign of terror”.

    It makes zero sense to be baffled by this, or to imagine that he’s a magical saint, just because he has the two brain cells required to say he supports evolution. The guy chooses to call himself a Republican, because that’s what he is. Stop agonizing over what old white guys truly feel in their heart. It’s tiresome and obscures the important issues, which is the policies that these old white guys want to impose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  19. Anonne says:

    Huntsman endorsed Ryan’s budget. That’s immediate disqualification right there, full stop.

    He was far more conservative in policy than in posture, but the GOP clearly responds more to image than substance. I’m glad that that clown Romney bought his way through the primary. Otherwise we might have had a President Huntsman. Whether or not he tries again in ’16 depends on how insane the party is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  20. Mr. Replica says:

    @MM:

    and introduce his daughters as “what liberal women wish they could look like if they would put down the tofurkey and pick up a mirror”.

    I am pretty sure one Huntsman daughter works for that evil liberal rag Huffington Post AND shows up from time to time on msnbc msdnc.
    That right there is an automatic dis-qualifier for the right wing. See: Megyan McCain, Steve Schmidt, Micheal Steele, Ronald Reagan Jr.

    Granted John, not his daughter, would be running.
    It would just be another stupid hurdle he would have to jump over to prove that he can be shoved inside the tiny box that offers no wiggle room that all GOP candidates must fit in in order to win the primaries.

    Then again, I guess if people like Rove and whatnot can just bankroll any candidate they choose and win the nomination…It may not be the base that John has to sell himself to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. LaMont says:

    Unfortunately, his campaign started off on a very bad foot at the beginning by ignoring and even alienating the base of the party,

    You mean pander to the extreme right to make it out the primary and ensure a loss in the general election? Although there is very little that Hunstman and I are in agreeance with, I have a ton of respect for Huntsman becuase he did not compromise his core values. Thats something Romney knows nothing about!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. superdestroyer says:

    The Democrats brain trust is so far ahead of the media cycle that it is apparant that they Democrats feel comfortable playing gags on the media.

    Anyone who claims that they would have been worried about Huntsman is obviously lying. When the people who claim to like Huntsman were the types who have never voted for him in a general election, it should be obvious that Huntsman could have been the kind of candidate that would have lost all of the states that Romney lost plus North Carolina and Indiana.

    The only reason Huntsman looks good is that the Democrats never had a two minute hate against Huntsman. No Republican candidate will ever be able to politically survive a Democratic Party controlled two minute hate in the future. I think Huntsman is smart enough to know that but idiot Republicans like Jeb Bush do not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  23. Rob in CT says:

    How would Huntsman have won the primary and still have been “Huntsman” the guy we know as a relatively reasonable/rational conservative? In order to win, he’d have had to do the sorts of things Mitt did.

    The problem isn’t the candidates, per se. It’s the base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. MBunge says:

    “many conservatives disliked him, absurdly, simply because he had served as an Ambassador under President Obama”

    AAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!!

    Look, the near-barbaric levels of partisanship that have gripped the GOP should not obscure the fact that a Republican serving in a Democratic administration and then seeking his party’s Presidential nomination to oppose that Democrat is a bizarre thing that perfectly rational, reasonable partisans would object to. That Huntsman thought he could get away with it belies the idea that he was some political god brought low by faithless scum.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  25. Davebo says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I have no idea why Huntsman is a Republican.

    He’s not. And neither is Doug. Damn anyone who would make such a claim!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. Motopilot says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The fact that so many Republican’s viewed Huntsman as a traitor for serving in the administration just reinforces my growing stereotype of the modern GOP: They are Republican’s first and Americans second.

    There is a vein of thinking amongst Republicans that if you are not a Republican you are not a real American. That bizarre viewpoint might shed light on the ‘party over country’ phenomenon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  27. Whitfield says:

    Intelligent, multi – talented, skilled, independent thinker: no wonder both parties feared this guy. Of course, the news media did everything they could to make sure that he was ignored at all debates. Same thing for Gary Johnson. Controlled, programmed, scripted elections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  28. KS says:

    What ever and who ever saw Jon as a threat but it seems like Obama government is able to bring down unemployment rate to 7% , more jobs more prosperity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0