Earlier today J.P. Green offered a balanced assessment of Jon Huntsman’s general election prospects in the unlikely even that he wins the GOP presidential nomination. But it’s hard to imagine Obama’s former ambassador to China ever getting to that point. Here’s Dave Weigel’s brutal take on Hunstman after watching his launch event:
Huntsman 2012 is a joint production of the political media and the fun wing of the GOP’s consultant class. (His chief strategist is McCain veteran John Weaver, who made a hobby of criticizing McCain’s negative turn in 2008; his adman is Fred Davis, who made sure you knew Christine O’Donnell was not a witch.) There is no Huntsman groundswell. There was no Draft Huntsman movement. One metric to show this: He has about 5,000 Facebook fans. A reasonably busy senator has that many. The wildly ignored 2012 contender Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, has more than 120,000 fans. True, Huntsman’s team cleverly secured a second-place showing in the Southern Republican Leadership Conference [straw poll]. When that result came down, my colleague John Dickerson heard only two hands clapping.
As for the positive hype over Huntsman cleverly choosing the same Statue of Liberty site for his launch that Ronald Reagan used in his 1980 general election campaign: Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics points out that it’s the same place where the less-than-immortal 1996 campaign of Pete Wilson started out. Right now Huntsman’s destination looks more likely to resemble Wilson’s than Reagan’s, at least in 2012. His hunch that Republicans are looking for a nominee who is civil towards Barack Obama and even shares some of his views–but who eagerly embraces the least popular recent GOP initiative, the Ryan budget–just seems a bit counter-intuitive.