Huntsman 2012: Why?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 31 2011 9:33 AM

Huntsman 2012: Why?

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is, according to Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns , going to quit his job and run for president as a Republican. The oddity of this is captured nicely in a joke by Bill Daley:

I want Jon to know that the president has no hard feelings. In fact, he just did an interview with the Tea Party Express saying how integral he has been to the success of the Obama administration.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


I can help out. Here is a complete list of all the people who quit the administration he had been appointed to*, then became the nominee of the other party and defeated his old boss:


History isn't the best guide to whether someone can or can't win, but serving in the administration you want to displace is a unique problem. The questions emerge: Did you oppose the president on Unpopular Issue X? What about on Y? If these questions are successfully dodged, why were you appointed in the first place? Huntsman has a problem less severe than Mitt Romney's, but damaging nonetheless -- he signed up with the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative in 2007. Regional cap-and-trade systems are anathema to conservatives; that decision by Huntsman opens up a discussion about the other things he's stiffed them on. If Mitch Daniels is in trouble merely because he's talked about a "social truce," how far can a candidate get if he's talked down conservative dogma and acted on it?

Chris Cillizza has a useful guide to Huntsman's team, which is heavy on McCain 2008 veterans. They did alright in 2008 with a candidate who was already familiar to GOP voters, who had a compelling personal story, and who wasn't Mormon. This time..

*I say "appointed to" because Thomas Jefferson was John Adams' Vice President when he beat him in 1800, but the two men were elected separately.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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