Jon Huntsman as Jack Tanner

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 23 2011 9:59 AM

Jon Huntsman as Jack Tanner

Jon Huntsman had a dull Twitter account, pretty typical of politicians who don't care to use the microblogging tool. Then, last week, he decided to make it fun. Taking advantage of an extremely slow news cycle, Huntsman tweeted a diss of Rick Perry:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.
Advertisement

Followed by a grab at the art-rock vote:

I wonder if a tweet where I admit how much I like Captain Beefheart will make the followers skyrocket even more! http://t.co/1yqlwYA

Since then, more tweets on a fairly regular schedule. Most of them sort of sarcastic. None of them confirmed to be from Huntsman himself. And yet, and yet, the campaign announces that Huntsman has basically doubled his Twitter following (he's got twice as many fans as Thad McCotter, whose quixotic presidential bid was, we were told, a function of his social media popularity), and rolls out the candidate for more interviews than someone at 1 percent in national polls typical gets.

This reveals something we sort of knew: Team Huntsman gets the media. This series of stunts should remind political geeks of Robert Altman's Tanner '88, the 11-part miniseries in which a handsome former congressman from Michigan ran for president and succeeded by being, like, real, man. The Tanner campaign launches with an aimless New Hampshire tour and a schmaltzy video. In this scene, we see a focus group beating the hell out of the ad they've just seen.

Sound like the reaction to Huntsman's odd Statue of Liberty announcement? The fake candidate, Tanner, is well aware of the blunders that have been made so far. His campaign team gathers in a hotel room to strategize. He unloads a monologue about the legacy of liberalism and the limits of modern (1988) American politics. One of his staffers discreetly turns on a camera and tapes the whole thing. Thirty second clips of the speech become the basis of his new campaign: "Jack Tanner: For Real."

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 23 2014 12:48 PM Track Your Bag and Charge Your Phone With This Carry-On Smart Suitcase
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 12:01 PM Who Is Constantine, and Should You Watch His New Show?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.