And a few things his opponents would rather you forget
By Chris Ingram
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was in Florida yesterday. A light day of campaigning was preceded by a coveted appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press in which Huntsman raised the issue of GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney’s electability and his repeated flip-flops.
Following his TV appearance, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric (who is not currently supporting anyone in the presidential contest) Tweeted, “Wow! Huntsman performance MTP (Meet the Press) very impressive. Thoughful and Presidential. Better 1on1 than debate. Deserves a second look”
From CEO’s like Welch to the few everyday Americans who are actually paying attention to the race, voters are still looking for a believable leader who lacks the baggage of candidates like Caine and Gingrich and the poll-tested and plastic nature of Mitt Romney. Huntsman may be the answer, but a lot of stars will have to line up in a row for Huntsman to become the nominee.
Live free or die
Metaphorically speaking, Huntsman has put all his political eggs in one basket – the basket being New Hampshire. If Huntsman can turn this gamble into a win, place or strong show, it will be a huge accomplishment for his dark horse candidacy. Currently his Real Clear Politics polling average in the Granite state is at six percent – tied with Newt Gingrich for fourth place.
Tony Lee of Human Events writes, “But if voters are willing to put aside ideological and rhetorical purity in favor of electability, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman may be the candidate who is more conservative and electable than Romney, and he should be discussed as the anti-Romney challenger from the “electability” wing of the Republican party.”
Given his “all or nothing in New Hampshire” campaign strategy, it’s perplexing as to why he was in Dunedin, Fla. (a small town wedged between Tampa and Clearwater), but Florida is important and will be critical to any momentum he gains in New Hampshire translating into broader support and campaign dollars. I spent a few one-on-one moments with Huntsman and planned to ask him why he was here, but more substantive issues dominated our brief conversation.
A summary of our Q&A
Irreverent View: What is the No. 1 issue facing our country?
Huntsman: Clearly it is jobs. The divide we’re seeing in America is driven by joblessness. People have lost hope. It’s unnatural and will continue to drive this divide until we address it. The lack of employment in America is a shipwreck on our economy, our homes, our families and our community.
I.V.: So how do we fix it?
Huntsman: It’s an intractable problem, but it is fixable. We need to drive confidence and the market will follow. We have to change the psyche by showing the market is ready.
I.V.: It seems to me that most elected officials are more concerned with getting re-elected than doing the people’s business and giving people what they need versus what they want. That said, would you be willing to take a pledge to only serve one term and solely focus on the important matters facing America like managing the debt, reforming the tax code, and reducing burdensome and job killing regulations as opposed to worrying about getting re-elected?
Huntsman: Well, I have made it a policy to not sign pledges of any kind.
I.V.: Fair enough, but would you be willing to accept in your own mind that you would address the nation’s problems without regard to your own re-election, and accept that by showing real leadership in giving people what they need, not what they want that you would have to sacrifice your own political future and re-election?
Huntsman: Of course I would. I would say “hallelujah!” if I could serve just four years and get things done. You need 2-3 structural steps to infuse the market with the confidence it needs to turn around the economy. If I could repeal Dodd-Frank, have meaningful tax code changes, make us energy independent, and reform the E.P.A., I would sacrifice re-election in a heartbeat.
To do these things you’ve got to do the following: you’ve got to rebuild our manufacturing muscle and attract capital.
Manufacturing is currently only nine percent of GDP – that is not sustainable. Next you have to lower taxes and fix the tax code by getting rid of corporate welfare, and all the loopholes. And we have to have meaningful regulatory reform. Regulations and the unseen costs of regulation cause this lack of investment. And finally energy independence – primarily through expanded exploration of natural gas in America is key.
These would fix the engines of growth and create a burst of confidence.
Connecting the dots
With his upbeat attitude and serious focus on the issues, Huntsman makes a convincing case for his candidacy. Until now, he has been largely dismissed by both pundits and party activists – the latter whom wrongly conclude Huntsman is a moderate.
While those perceptions of being a moderate certainly help Huntsman in a general election (and no doubt scare team Obama), he’s got to overcome them at some level in order to win the GOP nomination. But Huntsman has done little to change course, telling the crowd gathered in Dunedin that you “have to be who you are.”
Despite, or perhaps because of these perceptions, momentum appears to be on Huntsman’s side. His wife Mary Kaye speaks of it like a car chugging up a steep mountain. She further ads that she thinks voters will reject the “forced marriage with Romney.”
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal recently said of his economic plan, “Mr. Huntsman’s proposal is as impressive as any to date in the GOP Presidential field, and certainly better than what we’ve seen from the front-runners.”
As Huntsman builds support in more traditional ways, his daughters have made effective use of social media – particularly with their spoof of Herman Cain’s ridiculous “smoking” ad. The ad has been viewed over 250,000 times on YouTube.
This weekend the New York Times’ Nate Silver put out an interactive “election calculator” that predicts the chances of each Republican candidate winning the popular vote based on where the nation’s G.D.P. growth is on Election Day. The model shows Huntsman as the clear favorite as the Republican with the best chance of beating Obama no matter how good or bad the economy is next November.
Huntsman’s list of prominent supporters may be shorter than Romney or Perry’s but he’s picked up some key endorsements – including former Homeland Security secretary, and Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge. He also recently received the support of Alan Wilson, South Carolina’s attorney general, and son of Congressman Joe “you lie” Wilson. On his endorsement of Huntsman, Wilson said, “We need a fiscal conservative who can take that conservative message to general election voters.”
And while many so-called conservatives supporting other candidates have chided Huntsman for his service to our country as ambassador to China (appointed by President Obama), four of the so-called conservative candidates have supported Democrats for president in the past (Bachmann suppoted Jimmy Carter; Perry was for Al Gore; Romney for Paul Tsongas; and Cain was once for Bill Clinton). Huntsman is only guilty of serving his country, the others for, well, you decide…
Finally, Huntsman’s strategist Rick Weaver knows a thing or two about insurgency candidates, and running successful campaigns in New Hampshire – he’s done it twice for John McCain.
The question is, will Huntsman’s pragmatic conservatism resonate with New Hampshire voters, and if so, beyond to Florida and South Carolina?
If he can connect all the dots, don’t count Huntsman out, and let Barack Obama’s nightmare begin.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online. He is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
Please feel free to submit a comment on our blogs. By posting a comment you acknowledge reading and following the terms and conditions of posting found here. You may also submit a comment by e-mail. If you e-mail a comment you consent to your comment and name being posted on the Irreverent View website. If you wish to remain completely anonymous, please state so in your e-mail.