Jon Huntsman’s decision to remove himself from the 2012 GOP nominating process should come as no surprise to most observers. After establishing a political “firewall” in New Hampshire, and spending countless hours campaigning there against front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Utah governor was able to only secure a disappointing third place finish. In placing all of his eggs in the New Hampshire basket, Huntsman essentially shunned the voters of Iowa who represent many in the Republican base. Any campaign strategy that revolves around ignoring the party’s base in favor of “moderates,” “independents,” and even Democrats will never work, and, yet, Huntsman decided to give it another try.
Huntsman proved to be very successful governor of Utah because he implemented conservative policies and governed from the right. Utah is a heavy Republican state and Jon Huntsman was able to fit right in ideologically. The Jon Huntsman we witnessed throughout the 2012 nominating season would have had a difficult time even securing his party’s nomination in his home state. It is my belief that Huntsman is a conservative at heart who, like many politicians before him, tried the doomed-to-fail approach of running for national office from the center. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher: it’s difficult to remain in the middle of the road because you get hit by traffic from both sides. Huntsman decided to stake his claim to the Republican nomination by occupying a position directly in the center of the massive highway that represents American politics, and he failed miserably.
Throughout his 2012 campaign, Huntsman attempted to place an emphasis on “political ideas” and bringing people together, and spent most of his time doing all he could to alienate conservative voters in favor of the ever allusive “moderates.” Huntsman’s attempt to “cross the aisle” came in direct contrast to his successes as the governor of Utah because, in reality, they are two very opposite things. Huntsman governed as a conservative and then abandoned his record in an attempt to remake his image as a “centrist.”
It seems clear to most of us that Huntsman had the “political ideas” to successfully mount a significant run for the Republican presidential nomination, but he left them in Utah.