The entire time I was in New Hampshire I kept asking people “What does Huntsman think he’s doing?” I usually expected convoluted explanations about his electoral strategy, or boilerplate about his ego, or maybe theories about laying the ground work for 2016. I got some of all that of course. But what I hadn’t expected and heard a lot was that Huntsman has a strange fixation with being “cool.” The word came up a lot. The leather jacket, the motorcycle, etc. fit into that. But people who’ve followed him closely explained that it goes beyond that. He thinks he’s being cool, hip, edgy at the debates. He thinks the praise from the New York Times and the Boston Globe proves how cool he is and doesn’t recognize or care that such endorsements hurt him with actual conservatives. Watching his speech tonight, it dawned on me that he simply thinks his ambassadorship in China and his Chinese language skills are cool and that everyone is as impressed with all that as he is. His smug little asides in his third place “victory” speech tonight oozed with self-satisfaction. The guy was a fairly successful governor of a very conservative state, but he didn’t discuss that at all. Instead, he kept dropping references to how he lived in Asia and learned so much about America from seeing it “10,000 miles away.”
On the merits, I think Huntsman’s diplomatic service is a plus. But the way he talks about it is so off-putting it makes it a liability because it highlights the fundamental lameness of trying too hard to be cool.