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Jon Huntsman bows out of the presidential race

Republican candidate Jon Huntsman stepped aside today in his quest for the Republican Presidential nomination.  He plans on endorsing front runner Mitt Romney at an event in Myrtle Beach,SC tomorrow.  This is an end to a campaign that started with so much promise. His kickoff was set against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  It was reminiscent of the way that Ronald Reagan began his campaign in 1980.  Huntsman had a solid conservative, pro-growth record as Governor of Utah, which appealed to the right wing of the Republican Party.  He also served as the Ambassador to China under the current Obama administration, and had some moderate stances on energy and some other issues.  This was supposed to also help him in appealing to moderate Republicans and Independents.  The Washington Post even piled on the initial Huntsman bandwagon(as did I)….stating that Huntsman was, “the biggest wild card in the 2012 field, and one who could either surge or go belly up”.  We now see that the later occurred, and the Huntsman campaign is no more.

How will the exit of Jon Huntsman from the race affect the overall outcome? The former Governor of Utah was only polling at around 5% in South Carolina, so whomever picks up his supporters will get a modest bump at best.  I feel that most of his supporters will grudgingly do as their former candidate is expecting to do…which is to support Romney.   The departure of Jon Huntsman may be the beginning of an attempt by some in the party to coalesce around Romney, and end the primary as soon as possible.  A recent Insider Advantage SC primary poll has Romney up 32%, with Gingrich in second place at 21%.  Whats interesting is that Ron Paul is polling at 14%, with Rick Santorum slightly behind with 13%.  Republican voters who are supporting a Paul or Santorum are still not comfortable with the prospect of a Mitt Romney candidacy.  It is a possibility that if those two candidates exit the race as Huntsman has, that they might throw their support for Newt Gingrich.  If this were to occur, this would push the former Speaker of the House to 48%, and a possible victory in South Carolina.  This scenario is a reach, if only because of the fact that both Paul and Santorum will stay in the race, at least through the SC primary.  If they drop out soon after, this could give the Gingrich campaign an added boost as he moves on to other primary contests.  With two more candidates out of the race along with consolidating that support, Gingrich could portray himself as the true alternative to Mitt Romney.

It is not at all uncommon for a candidate who drops out of the race to endorse the front runner.  I would only say that it’s quite interesting in this case, given the way that Huntsman bashed Romney up to this point.  When speaking on Romney’s time as Governor of Massachusetts, he said that Romney, “Didn’t deliver any big bold economic proposals”.  When asked about Romney’s habit of flip flopping on issues, he stated that Romney was “a perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day,” who “has been missing in action in terms of showing any kind of leadership”.  Below are a few clips and ads in which Jon Huntsman unloads on Mitt Romey:

I may be a Democrat, but Jon Huntsman came off to me as a reasonable conservative.  He seemed to be an individual with a solid conservative record, but one that refused to venture too far to the right, and pander to extremists and ideologues.  He also was a breath of fresh air at the Republican debates, and always seemed to have a great grasp on economic and foreign policy issues.  At the end of the day, he wasn’t conservative enough for the Republican electorate.  They may regret not supporting him in the end.

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