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Opinion: How Huntsman Could Change the Game

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A local business owner photographs Jon Huntsman's lapel pin after a speech in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/Getty)

Jon Huntsman, easily the most obnoxious candidate in the race, recently brushed off Iowa, a place he was certain to fail, by saying "They pick corn in Iowa. They actually pick presidents in New Hampshire."

Despite being factually inaccurate, as can be testified by non-presidential candidates Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, Pat Buchanan, John McCain in 2000 and, of course, Hillary Clinton in 2008, it's actually an especially inaccurate commentary on election 2012.

In 2012, Iowa has made a huge splash, and not in the way anyone intended.

This has been an election marked by a phenomenon called "Not Romney."  With Mitt Romney as the presumed front-runner since day one, each candidate to rise and inevitably fall has been seen as simply Not Romney.  They take their shots at him, or don't in the case of Tim Pawlenty, and then disappear in his rearview mirror.

But despite his rolling over his opponents, the Mitt train was not expected to have an extended stop in Iowa. Part of the problem with Mitt Romney, and a major reason why the Not Romneys exist, is that he is simply not conservative enough for the Republican primary.  Yet, he did the unthinkable and won Iowa (or tied, it doesn't really matter), a state that usually picks the more conservative candidate.

That he even placed in Iowa is an accomplishment in the same way Ron Paul placing in third is a complete loss.  Iowa should not have been Romney's terrain, and it definitely should have been Paul's.  Now Romney's path to victory is close to assured and New Hampshire, that state where they supposedly grow presidents, matters a lot less.

Or, as the sardonic blogger Allahpundit tweeted: "Suspense mounts: Which candidate who won't end up being nominated will claim second place tonight?"

Of course, New Hampshire still has the power to surprise tonight.  If Jon Huntsman pulls an upset, and I don't mean surprising people with a second place finish, I mean an honest to goodness ran-away-with-it upset, that might be a game-changer.  If he were to win could he garner some momentum?  It's possible but Huntsman's personality will likely put a damper on any enthusiasm conservatives might muster for him. 

His calling the Republican party not sane might not play well in...a Republican primary.  While his comments got a little attention now, they would become scrutinized if he were to actually win New Hampshire tonight.  He's unlikely to, though, so even with the first in the nation primary tonight, all eyes are already turned to South Carolina and Rick Perry's last stand.

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Comments [1]

Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Huntsman is far too reasonable a candidate to be attractive in the Republican party as it is currently constituted....Too bad for them. Romney's has the money to mount a decent campaign - too bad that Mitt doesn't inspire real passion in the base. I mean, your morning oatmeal is good for your cholesterol numbers but how many of us really look forward to eating it? The South may delay Romney's nomination but it can't stop it. The focus through March and April will be who will Mitt pick for Number 2.

Jan. 13 2012 11:06 AM

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