Friday, June 10, 2011

Team Huntsman Takes Aim at Pennsylvania

Interesting. Jon Huntsman -- the Republican the Obama campaign would least like to run against -- is taking aim at Pennsylvania. The billionaire (or at least multi, multi, multi millionaire) former Governor and Ambassador that speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently and looks like a movie star is playing for keeps, taking aim at a possible tectonic weakness on the President's 2012 landscape. While Obama won Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes over John McCain easily -- even surpassing John Kerry's performance in the state four years earlier -- the economy, the unpopular health care plan have all eroded to some degree the President's strength with the white working class vote that lives in rural Pennsylvania. In other words, Huntsman is gambling that Pennsylvania may be up for grabs if unemployment stays above the 8% mark (which appears likely). From Politico:

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) is courting former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's support for his presumed campaign for the presidency.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Huntsman is actively seeking Ridge's endorsement and expertise. The two have met and talked, and the former Pennsylvania governor finds Huntsman's candidacy to be appealing — although Ridge has not yet officially signed onto Team Huntsman.
Huntsman has not formally announced his presidential campaign, but he is expected to officially jump into the race soon. He's already made extensive visits to the early primary states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
 President Obama, in his infinite political smarts, appointed Huntsman as Ambassador to China -- a major, major job that fills the foreign policy hole in  his resume -- to keep him off the political chessboard for 2012. Huntsman, in what will be considered a Machiavellian move if it actually works out, might have did a jiu jitsu move turning the President's own maneuver against him (Now he has foreign policy muscle in his CV). Obama, clearly, can neutralize Huntsman somewhat by saying "I don't fear Jon Huntsman, in fact we got along rather well when he was my appointee. (Averted Gaze)" That would be so pimp.

But that can only work for so long, particularly if Huntsman gets the nomination and is directly opposite the President on a debate stage with no other distractions or candidates. Then and there they are of the same stature. I asked The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder in April about the man the White House would least like to run against and he said:

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 should be an interesting GOP primary.

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