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Posted at 12:32 PM ET, 02/ 2/2011

John Huntsman: Liberal media's' pet candidate

By Jennifer Rubin

Michael Scherer of Time is one of many in the punditocracy who is taking Jon Huntsman's possible run for president seriously. He spins a tale that the country is all about moderation and Huntsman is just the fellow to run a non-aggressive, high-minded campaign against Obama:

What if in 2012 moderation rules? What if competence is a more important message than ideological difference? What if having worked with Obama is an asset? What if reasonableness trumps outrage? What if people don't just want to throw the bums out, because they tried that three times and it hasn't really worked?

This sounds like PR for No Labels. But what about the, you know, really conservative Republican primary voters (the "extremists" and the "radical" Tea Partyers, as liberals usually characterize them)? Scherer says that's no problem: "Pro-life, pro-gun, rides motocross, and his gray highlights are even slicker looking than Mitt Romney's."

Is he serious? This, Scherer certainly must know, is not sufficient to win a Republican primary.

I've yet to find a single Republican office holder, former campaign adviser, or conservative activist who takes Huntsman seriously. A Republican campaign adviser e-mails me: "I did think maybe it's a way to come home after being in China as part of the Obama administration, but then again while he's been there, he may have become delusional and thought, 'Look at me --all I can do!'"

There is a reason for Republicans' near unanimous dismissal of a possible Huntsman run. Not to state the obvious, but Republican primary voters find nothing attractive about the Obama administration. (To be blunt, they loath it.) If Huntsman were a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, his decision to join the administration would still be a dealbreaker. But Huntsman isn't, and never has been, a rock-solid conservative. The Cato Institute's 2008 governors' scorecard acknowledged Huntsman's conservative tax policies, but then found: "Unfortunately, Huntsman has completely dropped the ball on spending, with per capita spending increasing at about $70 million annually." Not exactly the Republicans' ideal man for the job in 2012, is he?

Then there is his infatuation with cap-and-trade regulation. So what's he going to sell to conservative voters? Not his mastery of China policy (conservatives are none too pleased with the Obama administration's reticence to confront China). Not his party loyalty. Not his opposition to the Obama agenda.

Frankly, it doesn't pass the laugh test. A GOP strategist e-mailed me, "The problem for Huntsman is he seems to have a bigger base of support among D.C. journalists than he does Republican primary voters in any state outside of Utah. Much like Fred Thompson, Huntsman is the first of many candidates in 2012 who will be momentary fads quickly to fade away because they have no rationale." But at least Thompson was a favorite among movement conservatives until he proved essentially uninterested in running a top-flight campaign.

But the strategist is on to something. The buzz is entirely a creation of liberal media outlets and cable TV talking heads within the Beltway. True, the media have some help here. They are the recipients of whole lot of spinning by John Weaver, the man fired as John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign chief. Scherer gushes that "John Weaver, Huntsman's main political adviser, loves long shots who scramble the partisan algebra."

You can understand why Weaver is pushing a Huntsman run. (Follow the money!) But why are liberal outlets gobbling this up? Chalk it up to boredom. But maybe -- my stars, could it be true? -- Huntsman is a convenient foil to use against all those "partisan" and "strident" conservative candidates, one of whom is actually going to be the nominee.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 2, 2011; 12:32 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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"per capita spending increasing at about $70 million annually."

Errr.... probably not 70M per person. Wow, I thought MD was bad!

Anyways, never heard of him before the past few days. Wonder if he's pro-gun like W was pro-gun?

Posted by: keepandbear | February 2, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday I remarked:

“Watch for the all of the various branches of the Liberal media to start churning out puff pieces extolling practically unheard of Jon Huntsman, explaining to the yahoos in conservativeland why he is really the best person to be the Republican candidate for the 2012 Presidential election. “

It certainly did not take long for the MSM to start having their wet dreams. In promoting Huntsman Michael Scherer poses some questions:

“What if in 2012 moderation rules?” That may happen 30 years from now, should journalist rediscover true journalistic professionalism and take it to heart; but not as long as Michael Scherer and the rest MSM are screwing up this country and its elections with disinformation, and certainly not by 2012.

“What if competence is a more important message than ideological difference? “ This maga-jerk raises THAT question after working overtime promoting a community organizer nincompoop as President?

“What if having worked with Obama is an asset?” LOL!!! Hey, Michael Scherer, let’s get to the point: Why don’t you run as a Republican candidate? You could be Huntsman’s stalking horse.

“What if reasonableness trumps outrage?” Like the first vain question

“What if people don't just want to throw the bums out, because they tried that three times and it hasn't really worked?” It is worth noting that Scherer was coyly careful not to include Reagan in this swipe at Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

My theory is that, now that the Tea Party movement is here, jerk journalism is not going to work as well as it used to.

Posted by: nvjma | February 2, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

But Jen, but Jen, he speaks Mandarin and stuff. And really, what better endorsement could you have than John Weaver. Sign me right up.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 2, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

This seems along the lines of the liberal media touting the wonderfulness of John McCain (as he had a propensity to buck the Republican party on occasion). That only lasted approximately until McCain became the Republican nominee for President. Sounds like rope-a-dope to me.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 2, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Let's see if I understand what's going on.

Ms. Rubin frequently plays parlour games in which she and readers of all ideological stripes are supposed to fantasize about the chances of various GOP presidential suits.

However, other writers aren't afforded the same courtesy. Ms. Rubin's all over them, as though anything anyone says at this stage actually matters.

It's all make believe at this point, Ms. Rubin. Chill out and laugh.

Posted by: MsJS | February 2, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Scherer is part of the media, who, if forced to take truth serum, would admit that the Obama Presidency is a colossal disaster. After the conservative resurgence two months ago, he probably could not imagine a Republican who fit the reach-across-the aisle-no labels template, best embodied in 2008, by John McCain. Then came Huntsman.

I do not know any conservative activist who finds Huntsman's political resume attractive to conservative voters. In fact, if he succeeded in a crowded conservative and found the McCain route to the nomination, he will likely provoke a 3rd party bid, thereby ensuring Obama's reelection. Maybe that's what Scherer really wants.

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | February 2, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"What if in 2012 moderation rules? ... What if having worked with Obama is an asset?"

I wouldn't rule that possibility out (my record at predictions has been lousy the last two years). But *this* prediction I'll make: If in 2012, having worked with Obama is an *asset* for the Republican in the general election, then Obama wins in a walk.

And when we Republicans choose a candidate, I don't see the point in using the strategy, "which candidate might suffer the least humiliating loss if the year ends up being catastrophic for us?"

Posted by: shoutingboy | February 2, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

(With apologies and in homage to Mark Russell)

John Ander(Hunts)man, John Ander(Hunts)man, he's purer than the rest...!

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Anything to get some conservative third-party candidates out there!

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for explaining to us why John Huntsman isn't ignorant enough to win the G.O.P. nomination.

Posted by: danw1 | February 2, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Oops, misspelled Jon 'John', then realized J-Rub's text reads "...taking Jon Huntsman's possible run seriously..." and the headline reads "John Huntsman: Liberal media's' pet candidate", plus two other Johns referenced, McCain and Weaver, so we're all unforgiven. Gotta celebrate it, Sarah!

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Woops, cerebrate.

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Good news for Obama fans. If you think Huntsman has no shot, George Will has a column out today about Rick Santorum running. Politics doesn't attract the smartest people, but often the most driven. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

I have to confess though that as a former Pennyslvanian I've never seen a bigger intellectual lightweight at the Senatorial level than Santorum.

Yes Palin is MUCH smarter than him. The only national figure who is possibly less bright is Michele Bachmann. If they appeared on CNBC together in the morning, it would be an hour filled with long awkward pauses and a lot of backing and filling by the hosts of the show.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 2, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Why are so many people trying to crush Huntsman before he says a word? What are they afraid of?

Between the Palin fanatics, and those who still think "social issues" are sacred, oh well, maybe John Boehner will get drafted :)

The only Republican who said anything smart this week was Mitch Daniels. Three cheers for an elected official who totally understands why two feet of snow is preferable to one inch of ice. I am totally serious - having experienced one such ice storm two winters ago was one too many for my lifetime. Daniels gets my vote for anything!

Posted by: K2K2 | February 2, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse

K2K2 is red-hot warm on the ice issue. Lost electricity for (only) 5 1/2 days and a co-worker on a farm for 3 1/2 WEEKS in a midwest cold Jan-Feb, don/t recall, have repressed it entirely. Ugh.

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 9:59 PM | Report abuse

LOL. Oh yeah, I see big signs that moderation is ruling in the GOP rank and file these days. From the guns brought to political rallies, to the complete disregard for what our scientists are telling us about climate change, to more than half of them believing the president is a Muslim plant from Kenya. The GOP electorate is all about moderation right now. This is Huntsman's moment, you can be certain of it.

Posted by: B2O2 | February 3, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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