Friday, April 02, 2010

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: Ambassador Jon Huntsman Is The Candidate The White House Would Least Like To Face In 2012

Over at The Atlantic they have, on Friday's, Question Time with their Washington heavyweight thinker Marc Ambinder. The Corsair couldn't resist. We asked: I remember Karl Rove sort of feared John Edwards in 2004 (what a difference 6 years can make!). Which Republican do you think the Obama camp least like to face in 2012?

Also: Can Mitt Romney overcome the Mormon thing with evangelicals in the GOP primaries? Would he need a crowded race to do so?

He responded:

Jon Huntsman. Actually, I think Mitch Daniels would make some WHers quaky -- a successful Midwestern governor...yes, he has Bush links, but he's also got a new identity now. And he's not obsessed with social issues and isn't much of a panderer. But, I'll stick with Jon Huntsman.

Now -- that helps answer the second question, too. This is a tough point to make in writing, so please interpret what I'm writing in an analytical light: from the perspective of evangelical Christians -- many of them -- Romney is not just a Mormon. He's a MORMON. His style is contrived, stiff, starchy; he fits the stereotype. His reputation as a waffler plays into the idea that he is cast from a mold and not authentic. Evangelical protestants can absolutely get behind someones membership in the LDS Church. Jon Huntsman (had he not come out for civil unions) would have been perfect -- his style could not be more different than Mitt Romney's. I don't endorse anti-Mormon prejudice for one second. I do think there's enough of it in the Republican base to give Romney, or any Mormon, heartburn. Some Mormons, though, are more easily digested than others.

This is fascinating to me, a political junkie. John Huntsman was whispered about among Washington Insiders as a 2012 possibility at the beginning of Obama's administration. Almost immediately President Obama appointed him Ambassador to China, an offer no sane politikon zoon could possibly refuse. It was an absolutely fascinating political maneuver on the part of Obama. Huntsman is a Republican multi-millionaire many times over (from the Huntsman chemical fortune) well-liked across the aisle who is on paper tailor-made for the presidency -- minus the foreign policy expertise. Appointing him to Beijing is a risky gamble giving Huntsman that final, crucial component needed to buttress his blind side in a possible GOP run in 2016 -- but also effectively clearing him from contention in 2012. In the process it removes a formidable piece from Obama's chessboard in 2012, where the harsh medicines he's prescribed for the Great recession will not yet have fully had their effect. By 2016, if Huntsman runs, both men will presumably be at full political strength.

Fascinating optics; fascinating strategy at the highest level. It is the stuff that makes political junkies dissolve into tears of mirth.

It also, quite frankly, telegraphed a certain anxiety in the "no drama Obama" camp.

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