The last week has been pretty damn bad for Mitt Romney, Scott Brown and David Petraeus. And as a result, it’s been a good few days for John Huntsman.
Huntsman’s chances of becoming President remain in the single digits. But it’s helped by recent events. If Mitt Romney had won the presidential election, it’s unlikely that he would have selected Huntsman for his administration. First, the two men don’t seem to particularly like one another. And as a Mormon, Romney would be self-conscious against selecting too many members of his faith, which consists of two percent of the population, for his cabinet. So the one guy he doesn’t like would have been least likely to get the job, passed over in favor of the likes of former Utah Governor/ HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.
There’s also no speculation that Romney was hurt by bigotry against Mormons, which would be useful for any candidate who wants to be the party’s second Mormon nominee. And Huntsman would be able to appeal to Utah donors without competing with the savior of the Salt Lake City Olympics.
Huntsman also didn’t have many other opportunities for staying relevant for the next decade. Orrin Hatch’s term in the Senate doesn’t expire until 2018. Mike Lee is in his early 40s, and even less inclined to leave the Senate. Huntsman’s former Lieutenant Governor was elected to a full term as Governor until 2016. So he would have preferred a presidential bid in 2016 to one in 2020.
His best shot at the White House is by running as John McCain circa 2000 and 2008, a man who can appeal to Independents and those who want politics to be more civil and bipartisan. There are three others in that category who could have been strong presidential contenders. Scott Brown lost a reelection bid, and even if he climbs back into the Senate to replace John Kerry, it seems unlikely that he would be a nominee in 2016. David Petraeus was one of the others.
That just leaves Chris Christie in that segment of the primary. The Governor of New Jersey does seem to be a man of immense political talents, and it seems pretty likely that he’s going to get reelected to the Governor’s mansion. I don’t believe that his vocal appreciation of Obama’s efforts post-Sandy has hurt his prospects.
Christie’s main problem may be that temperamentally, he’s a lot like Rudy Giuliani. He’s better suited to be a challenger than a candidate for an open election seat. That said, Barack Obama essentially ran for President by pretending that George W Bush was seeking a third term.
There is likely to be another runoff in the presidential primary, between the more conservative candidates. There is a strong possibility that similar contenders will split the vote. Paul Ryan has national name recognition after handling himself reasonably well as a candidate for Vice-President, but two of his fellow conservative favorite Catholic policy wonks in their early 40s are making early moves. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is heading to Iowa, while many in the party seem convinced that choosing a Hispanic presidential nominee will be helpful in appealing to voters in Colorado and Florida. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana got some attention for his calls for the party to offer detailed policy solutions in an interview with politico.com. Rand Paul would also be a likely candidate, likely starting in the polls in the double-digits thanks to his dad’s supporters.
In three years, it’s possible that we’ll have a repeat of the last two primaries, with several contenders in the 15-25% range in various polls. That type of scenario would work out well for John Huntsman, allowing him to compete in New Hampshire, where he finished in third place in the last primary, and build momentum from there. It’s also possible that we’ll have an underwhelming favorite polling at fifty percent. In that case, Huntsman may try to offer his services elsewhere on the ticket.