The Corner

Huntsman’s Political Obituary

Obviously Jon Huntsman is not going to be the Republican nominee. But whatever small chance he might have had is now gone altogether, with the publication of a fawning profile in Vogue (!) by lefty journalist Jacob Weisberg , with photography by Annie Leibovitz. His opponents couldn’t buy media more damaging to the guy. A few random nuggets:

His left eyebrow is pitched slightly lower than the other, and the eye below it has a slight squint. This gives him a perpetual expression of thoughtful engagement, the look of someone listening intently to what others are saying. Which—unlike most other presidential candidates I’ve observed over the years—he gives every indication of actually doing. 

And this:

Jon and his wife, Mary Kaye, are a strikingly attractive couple. For this morning’s photo-op, they’re receiving the endorsement of the late governor Carroll Campbell’s family. She is wearing a short-sleeved Carolina Herrera dress that picks up the piercing blue of her eyes. With his tanned face and salt-and-pepper hair, he looks so good in checked shirts and denim jackets that The Wall Street Journal recently compared the launch of his campaign to a Ralph Lauren product rollout.

It gets better:

As you listen to Huntsman’s blunt assessment of the country’s prospects, it’s hard not to notice the commonalities with the man he would challenge in 2012—the hazard Obama hoped to forestall by sending him to Beijing. There is, to begin with, the physical resemblance. Huntsman is slender, athletic, and stylish, with a winning smile. Huntsman is 51, Obama is 50, and both have an unusual reserve, a cool unflappability. More important is a shared fundamental outlook: substantive, patient, with a preference for compromise over confrontation, and a pragmatic rather than ideological approach to politics.

Jeez, get a room! And finally:

A few weeks into the race, Huntsman looks like a protest candidate—less a figure of the current Republican Zeitgeist than a canny challenger to his party’s orthodoxy. But his lack of traction thus far doesn’t feel exactly like failure. Running from behind brings a freedom to speak one’s mind, which can affect the political conversation for the better. Like Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Bruce Babbitt in 1988, and John McCain in 2000, Huntsman seems already to have become a media darling—a thinking person’s candidate whose candor shines a light on the evasions of his rivals, even if it fails to change the outcome of the race. If he performs credibly, Huntsman stands to emerge better known, with his national reputation enhanced, and—should Obama be reelected—well positioned to run in 2016.

“Well-positioned,” you mean, to follow in the footsteps of President Eugene McCarthy, President Bruce Babbitt, and President John McCain?


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