The GOP field for 2012 added another official contestant today when former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman formally launched his campaign. As with most of the other candidates, there was no surprise involved in his pre-announced announcement. But there’s still some mystery as to what kind — and caliber — candidate Huntsman ultimately will be.
Reviewing Huntsman’s questionable prospects at NRO, Jim Geraghty noted that Huntsman’s resume ought to make him a “dream” candidate for Republicans:
● Staff Assistant, Pres. Ronald Reagan
● Ambassador to Singapore
● Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
● Two-term governor, elected in two landslides
● Signed into law the largest tax cut in his state’s history
● From 2005 to 2010, his state’s economy expanded by 3.5 percent annually, second-fastest in the nation and three and a half times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole
● Enacted a health-care reform that raised the legal standard for malpractice claims
● Enacted the most expansive school-voucher program in the country and three pieces of pro-life legislation
● Married, seven children, two adopted
● A financial net worth that makes self-funding a possibility, or at least suggests that his campaign is unlikely to run low on cash
One of Huntsman’s problems is that, as Geraghty says, “few [modern] presidential candidates have worked for their prospective opponent” and fewer still have gone on to defeat their former boss. Huntsman, of course, was ambassador to China for President Obama for almost two years.
Huntsman is trying to take advantage of his time in Beijing by playing up his foreign-policy credentials, which allows him to stake out much different territory than most of the other contenders. But unless one of our Mideast wars really flares up or there’s a big terrorist attack between now and Election Day, this GOP primary and general election are going to be fought on domestic issues.
To that end, Ryan Streeter at the U.S. version of the website Conservative Home has five questions for the newly minted candidate:
Will you be tough enough?
Will you have distinctive ideas, things you are for, that will make you stand out from the others?
What do you know about job creation?
How will you be the un-Romney?
How will you kill the RINO?
Of these questions, the second is most interesting. Here’s how Streeter fleshes it out:
Huntsman has made clear in statements about Afghanistan that we should bring troops home, that we shouldn’t stay and play “traffic cop.” He opposes Pawlenty-ish growth targets, telling Ramesh Ponnuru he prefers instead for government to “create the environment for growth” (a rather standard Republican line), and he favors a hands-off approach on pressuring China on its currency, believing the issue will take care of itself. So far, Huntsman seems to have characterized himself through an avoidance of strong stances on issues. Where he has been clear, such as on entitlements, it’s been to back someone else’s idea (the Ryan plan). The question now becomes, what will be the thing that sets Huntsman apart, that makes him worth paying attention to? Can he paint a picture of a future people want to live in?
Well, that’s a pretty good question for all the candidates — Obama included.
– By Kyle Wingfield