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:
Huntsman Leaves Race With
Plea for Party Unity
— New York Times
Huntsman: A boutique candidacy
that didn’t sell
— Washington Examiner
- Jan. 15: Good-Bye, Governor Asterisk
- Jan. 11: Philly Layover Musings: The Republican Party Is Depraved and Decadent
- Jan. 6: Two Excellent Arguments in Favor of a Jon Huntsman Presidency
- Dec. 15: Joe Scarborough’s Weird Man-Crush on Jon Huntsman: Get a Room, You Two!
- Oct. 14: Soon to Be a ‘Downfall’ Video Parody: Huntsman Campaign Goes Broke!
- Sept. 8: Gov. Benzene: Huntsman a ‘Green’ Phony
- Aug. 22: DNC Quotes Governor Asterisk