Monday, January 09, 2012

Jon Huntsman is on track to win the Republican nomination . . . in 2016


Jon Huntsman is a smart man. He has a long list of accomplishments including two terms as governor of Utah and an ambassadorship to China. Huntsman is not a man to do foolish things. If Jon Huntsman was running for the Republican nomination in 2012, then he wouldn't have skipped the Iowa caucuses. But Huntsman is not running for the 2012 nomination, he's is angling for the nomination in 2016.

This primary season has seen most of the top-flight Republicans sit out the race. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Thune, and many other better prepared Republicans decided to stay on the sidelines this year. The actual Republican field this year is a remarkably poor one. Rick Perry simply isn't talented enough to be president. Newt Gingrich has more negative baggage than any other candidate for the presidency with the possible exception of Richard Nixon in 1972. Ron Paul is a fringe character who will never poll above 25%. Mitt Romney is a hopelessly compromised character who has been on both sides of every major issue and who is wildly out of touch with ordinary Americans, but he seems to be the choice of establishment Republicans who are smoothing the way for him. Romney will be the Republican nominee, and Obama will chew him up and spit him out.

Any intelligent politician, and John Huntsman is an intelligent politician, can look at the current Republican field and see that a victory over Barack Obama in November 2012 is highly unlikely. Eric Cantor has made "Republican" a dirty word in the mouths of many Americans, and Cantor's none-too-subtle attempts to forestall economic recovery seem to have failed. If the Democrats get off their asses and recruit good House candidates, this could be a very bad year for Tea Party Republicans.

Huntsman is not running to win in 2012; the pace of his campaign seems perfectly geared towards winning the Republican nomination in 2016. Huntsman avoided the time and expense necessary to compete in the Iowa caucus which he knew in advance he had no chance of winning and focused instead in New Hampshire where he could make a strong showing and increase name recognition. Realistically there was never any chance that Huntsman campaign would catch fire this year, but by building name recognition in New Hampshire he has made himself into a national figure. He is also learning the same lessons learned by Mitt Romney in 2008 during Romney's first run for the nomination. In 2016 Barack Obama will no longer be a candidate for the presidency. Huntsman will by then have been on the national stage for four years: on news programs and possibly publishing a book to keep his hand in. By the summer of 2015, Huntsman could be perfectly positioned to begin his run for the GOP nomination in 2016.

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