Never before in the history of the Western world has the vast gulf between the level of national media coverage received and the level of national media coverage deserved been wider for a political candidate than for Jon Huntsman Jr.
Bigfoot journalists, respected political analysts, news anchors, and everyone else under the sun have breathlessly anointed the former U.S. ambassador to China and twice-elected former governor of Utah as a first-tier candidate, the “strongest possible Republican nominee” to challenge President Obama, and, as Time’s Mark Halperin said, “as good a retail politician as George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.”
You cannot possibly overstate the level of overstatement.
Pardon me for interrupting the universal, collective golf clap from the chattering class, but does Mr. Huntsman have a path to the Republican nomination?
Of course not. In fact, no one has even bothered to ask if there is one.
Let me point out this simple yet inconvenient fact: In order to defeat President Obama, you must first win the Republican nomination. If you have no path to do that, you deserve the same level of coverage as Buddy Roemer.
Let’s examine what Huntsman has recently said and done and what that means for his “first-tier” primary campaign:
He said he would not run in Iowa, so he won’t win there. 0–1.
The Suffolk University poll of likely New Hampshire voters released June 28 had Huntsman at 4 percent, behind Bachmann, Ron Paul, and possible candidate Rudy Giuliani. Part-time New Hampshire resident Mitt Romney had 36 percent and he will do whatever it takes to win there. This means Huntsman will be 0–2.
Evangelical South Carolina is unlikely to elect a Mormon as the winner of its primary. Southern candidates like possible candidate Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain, or Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann, are likely to win there. Huntsman is 0–3.
He will then stake his claim in Nevada, where all recent polls have shown Romney with a commanding lead, although no public poll has included Huntsman yet. Romney is the overwhelming favorite in Nevada. You guessed it, 0–4.
Fear not, Florida awaits. His campaign is headquartered there (for the most defensible reason that his wife’s parents are from there), so surely that will deliver the state to him. And waiting to win your first primary in Florida worked so well for Rudy Giuliani in 2008.
It gets worse.
Huntsman remains the only candidate to openly oppose signing a pledge to pass a Cut, Cap, Balance plan, angering the 84 outside conservative groups and the 126 Tea Party organizations pushing the pledge, and causing the influential Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) to say he cannot support Huntsman in 2012. New entrant Bachmann has said she is considering it. All six other serious candidates have signed it.
Huntsman also made the curious admission to the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state’s largest and most influential newspaper, that “he has yet to formulate a comprehensive economic policy.” Rather important in an election in which the economy is the No. 1 issue.
Owing to some of his ideological views, Huntsman has additional problems with the Republican primary electorate.