Just like with all of the other major candidates in the running for the Republican presidential nomination, Jon Huntsman has a lot of hurdles he’s going to have to find a way to jump over to have a shot at making it to the big show against Obama. If Huntsman wants to win the Republican nomination, he will have to put up big numbers in open primary states, and not get clobbered elsewhere. This will mean working to appeal to independents and moderates - a group that Obama has soft support with - without alienating base voters too much.
His support of civil unions should help with those swing voters, as should his stances on the environment. He’s no global warming denier, yet made the right choice in changing his mind on cap and trade. If he’s smart, he could position himself on the high ground on health care reforms too. This is a tough one, but if he came out staunchly for some of the reforms passed last year that are popular, while announcine a replacement for the very unpopular individual mandate, I think that could give him a big boost as a solutions oriented candidate.
In some ways, his chances in the GOP primary are worse than the general; to make it through that he’ll have to have the kind of tenacity and intelligent campaigning that would make for a heck of a general election campaign. I wonder if this has something to do with why the big press folks are giving him so much attention - not only because he has a compelling story and is charismatic, but a good horserace would be good for business.
Jonathon Alter thinks he may be the “big new face” for Republican hopefuls this year. We’ll see about the big part, but he certainly is right about the new thing. A recent Gallup poll showed Huntsman having only 25 percent name recognition among Republican voters. Only Libertarian-Republican candidate Gary Johnson’s numbers are lower. He’s going to have to define himself quickly as his name recognition rises, since his much more well known opponents will not hesitate to slash away at him once they see him as a threat.
Even with some of his moderate stances, he may well have the least damaging track record while in elected office and public service. He was a popular governor of a deep red state, worked for three Republican presidents, has been the ambassador to both Taiwan and China, and he’s one of several candidates who changed their mind on cap and trade.
If early results from his efforts to lay the groundwork for a presidental campaign are any indication, it appears camp Huntsman means business. He’s already pulled down some big name supporters in New Hampshire (a MUST WIN state for him, as he has very little chance in Iowa), and South Carolina. The narrow path he has to the nomination got a bit wider with Huckabee dropping out as well, but he’s still he seems to be doing everything right so far.
The big picture question for Huntsman, and the Republican party in general, is - do they want someone who can take Obama down, or will they hinder their chances of taking back the White House by nominating someone who plays more to their right wing, but isn’t electable - like Sharon Angle in Nevada or Carl Paladino in New York?
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties