The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

A Fitting Finale to the Huntsman Flop

Posted on | January 16, 2012 | 19 Comments

Network TV cameras at the Huntsman press conference

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.
Jon Huntsman quit the 2012 presidential campaign just as he ran it all along: Sowing confusion with contradictory messages.

“This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks,” the former Utah governor said in announcing that he was suspending his campaign. Huntsman denounced “the current toxic form of our political discourse,” which he said had created a “corrosive” environment.

However, Huntsman then endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner whose so-called “super PAC,” Restore Our Future, has spent millions of dollars on negative attack ads against his Republican rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. None of Romney’s attack ads ever targeted Huntsman, whose anemic poll numbers never made him a serious challenger to Romney for the nomination.

Huntsman’s farewell speech was crammed full of mixed messages. Having served as the Obama administration’s ambassador to China, Huntsman included a shot at the president in his speech Monday, accusing Obama of waging “class warfare for political gain.” And having spent six months attempting to distract and divide the Republican opposition to Romney, Huntsman said it was “time to unite around a candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama.”

Another consistent theme of Huntsman’s candidacy also continued until its end: His final campaign press conference was lavishly covered by the media. Multiple network cameras, dozens of press photographers and scores of reporters were on hand for the 11 a.m. event in Room 202 of the Sheraton Convention Center on Oak Street. Among the faces I recognized in the media swarm: Byron York of the Washington Examiner, Danny Yadron of the Wall Street Journal, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, Michelle Goldberg of Newsweek and Carl Cameron and John Roberts of Fox News.

Huntsman’s media coverage was always grossly disproportionate to his support among Republican voters. He was the subject of glowing profiles in the mainstream press and treated with deference in network TV interviews. Yet despite his enviable media coverage, Huntsman never got out of the single digits in national polls of likely GOP primary voters. Strangely enough, however, his poll numbers were always deemed minimally sufficient to include him in televised debates. He eventually decided to stake his entire campaign on the New Hampshire primary, where he placed third by getting support from voters who approved of Obama’s policies and were hostile to the Tea Party movement, according to exit polls.

And so now, the quixotic candidacy of the man whom I long ago dubbed “Governor Asterisk” is now officially over. Students of American political history who examine the peculiar course of Huntsman’s campaign will undoubtedly scratch their heads and ask themselves, “What the f–k was that all about?”

Video of Huntsman’s speech, recorded by my 13-year-old son Jefferson:


UPDATE: Headlines via Memeorandum:

Axelrod: Huntsman Dropped
Because He Wouldn’t Sell His Soul

BuzzFeed

Huntsman Leaves Race With
Plea for Party Unity

New York Times

Huntsman: A boutique candidacy
that didn’t sell

Washington Examiner

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Comments

  • Anonymous

    Boy, it is a good thing Queen Newt is still in the race!  The Queen Newt picture was at ChrisTLine.   

    But this story on whether your husband is gay is also hilarious:   #13,Does he wear a speedo at the beach?  I am sure it is just a coincidence in RSM’s case.  Nothing to worry about!  

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    He was doomed from the moment he wrote those letters to Obama and Bill Clinton offering to kiss their hineys on Pennsylvania Avenue in midday traffic.  (Well, the wording was not exact, but the message was clear).

    He targeted a segment of the Republican electorate that doesn’t even exist, and then made darned sure no actual Republicans could ever vote for him.  If any good comes of his candidacy, perhaps it will signal the end of the odious John Weaver’s career in politics – at least until another candidate feels compelled to run a suicide campaign.

    Good looking daughters, though – if he had just sent them out on the trail and stayed home himself, he would have done no worse and not have burned so many bridges.

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  • http://2012.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

    Who?

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  • M. Thompson

    Huntsman Drops Out of GOP Race!  Media Hardest Hit!

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, I saw those articles and they were so funny I had to link them.  

    And here is Ace commenting on what could have been with Huntsman.  http://ace.mu.nu/archives/325682.php  I respectfully disagree (but it is an interesting article and you should read it).  A candidate has to take responsibility for his campaign.  And we have to assume Huntsman believed in what he was running on.  So he is unfit to have been the GOP candidate and that is why he lost.  

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    Mitt’s super Pac ROF stood for Roll Over, Folks…

  • chuck coffer

    “He targeted a segment of the Republican electorate that doesn’t even exist,”

    Yeah. There’s only room for one Ron Paul in the primary season. hehe

  • Anonymous

    I can see why the media focused in on him at first — former governor of a conservative western state on one hand, “centrist” who was willing to carry the Obama administration’s water all the way to China on the other.

    The media’s big on “centrists” and “moderates” and “reaching across the aisle” and so forth.

    What I’ve never been able to understand is why they kept playing with him after it became obvious he was going nowhere. Usually the need for sensationalism trumps even the most blatant political agenda, and Huntsman’s about as sensational as … as … sorry, I can’t stay awake trying to think of an appropriate simile.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jorge-Emilio-Emrys-Landivar/37403083 Jorge Emilio Emrys Landivar

    He walked like a conservative but talked like a liberal.  He was the diametrical opposite of Romney.  In elections talk matters more than walk, so there is no way he could win.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatChristyChic Christy Waters

    The Huntsman Flop… now there’s a dance craze that’s certain to take hold. Oh well, maybe now he can fine tune his career in stand up and open for Arlen Specter.

  • Anonymous

    What I’ve never been able to understand is why they kept playing with him after it became obvious he was going nowhere. 
    That is a rhetorical question, correct?   Could it be media bias and wanting to influence the GOP primaries (or at least stir up some mischief).  

  • Anonymous

    That’s what I would assume, except that he was so insanely boring. I mean, we’re talking a Bill Bradley level of boring here.

    Or that guy who reads off cricket scores for the Beeb (20 minutes of “Liverpool 1, Arsenal nil; Buttcheese 2, Coventry nil; Hangdog 5, Worcestershire 4 …”

    That kind of boring.

    The media will get up to all kinds of fuckery, but usually they try to make it entertaining. 

  • Quartermaster

    About 12 years ago I came across the personal ad of a Japanese woman who was divorced and looking again. She said she wanted to marry a gay man because she didn’t like sex.

    Hard to believe that she would word her ad in that fashion, but she did. It was astounding to me.

  • Quartermaster

    The two are completely different. That doesn’t even work as a joke. Huntsman is a Neocon.

  • Anonymous

    The more important question is, what’s the going rate for a candidate to drop out before an important debate and give a lukewarm endorsement to his hated rival?

    Is it payment of all campaign debts? Maybe an ambassadorship to Vanuatu or the Andamans? I dunno, but it had to be something other than the VP spot or Huntsman would have mentioned Romney at least twice, and with more verve. Romney bought Pawlenty, certainly – perhaps after SC he can add Perry to his charm bracelet.

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