In just a few hours we’ll find out the results of New Hampshire Republican Primary. In other words, we’ll find out by what margin Mitt Romney managed to beat out the rest of the field, and we’ll find out what the New Hampshire voters made of the rest of the candidates jockeying for runner-up honors. While Rick Perry is little more than a non-factor in the state, Newt Gingrich and his attack-based, hypocritical campaign is floundering at a rate that is making Gingrich visibly desperate, and Rick Santorum has found himself declining in progressive state even despite his impressive performance in Iowa, two unconventional candidates – Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman – are currently in very attractive positions on the coattails of young, independent voters. No one, except for perhaps Ron Paul, expected the eccentric libertarian candidate to be in this position going into primary season, but his off kilter stances have found resonance among those most frustrated with business as usual politics. Despite this, it’s hard to imagine that Paul will remain relevant deep into the race with his views on foreign policy, drugs, and the economy. Jon Huntsman, on the other hand, is performing well in New Hampshire largely because his campaign has focused almost exclusively on the state. The former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China under President Obama is the most progressive candidate in the race, and based on his recent campaign messages and in the views of his supporters, he is the most likely to seriously challenge Obama in the general election because he has the best ability to swing independents and some Democrats that voted from Obama in 2008.
Huntsman has found himself under attack from other candidates for working under a Democratic president, although in the last few day before New Hampshire he has been able to swing these facts in his favor (just watch this exchange with Mitt Romney, or find it below). He also has had great trouble finding the resources and momentum to make a wide campaign congruent to that of his fellow candidates. Huntsman has his time in the last weeks exclusively in New Hampshire because it is the only state in the early stages of the primaries where he can find the voter sympathy to launch a surge towards Super Tuesday. What Iowa was to Rick Santorum, New Hampshire could be at an even bigger scale to Jon Huntsman, for the reason that Jon Huntsman could find national support across the political spectrum where Santorum never could.
It’s unfortunate then, that Jon Huntsman will likely not find the results he needs to be a staying factor in Republican field. At worst Huntsman performs worse than expected tonight in New Hampshire and quickly and silently bows out of the race; at best he performs better than expected and finds a needed surge in resources and support to remain a candidate for conceivably into the the second phase of the primary process. It just simply cannot be denied that Mitt Romney has run an impressive race thus far, and with his narrow win in Iowa, his likely win tonight in New Hampshire, and a very conceivable win on the 21st in South Carolina, he will have the Republican candidacy all but locked up. Jon Huntsman, as a candidate that garners less media attention than anyone else in the field, simply will not compete with Romney in the long term.
It remains important, however, for Huntsman to compete in the short-term. A short-term surge by Huntsman, similar to those seen by every other candidate in the race, will put intelligent, moderate, and important opinions at the forefront of a Republican primary that has been dominated by half-baked policies proposed by politicians that would be fringe at best during any typical election cycle. It would force voters to contemplate the importance of crossing the party border for the sake of the nation, something vitally important in the wake of three years of dysfunctional partisan gridlock. Important for Huntsman’s career, it would put him at the forefront of candidates for political appointments under both an Obama or Romney administration. It is foreseeable that under either administrations the gridlock and dysfunction witnessed in recent years will remain an issue. Huntsman has campaigned on a platform including moderate ideology, political reform, and foreign policy experience. Put in a prominent executive position, possibly even Secretary of State (even in an Obama administration the position will need to be filled in the absence of Hillary Clinton) based on his prior experience in the State Department, would be a statement by either side of a wish to end politics as usual. Furthermore, it would be the job of a lifetime for Huntsman, and it would be a perfect launching point for the young politician’s possible presidential candidacy in 2016 or 2020. In many ways, however, this future is in the hands of mere thousands of New Hampshire voters that will decide whether to snuff out Huntsman’s dreams or put him temporarily into the limelight.
- Jon Huntsman’s big moment; Ron Paul defends the fort (thehill.com)
- Republicans Passing Over Best Chance to Beat Obama: Jon Huntsman (fidlerten.com)
- New Hampshire primary: does the personal touch really count? (guardian.co.uk)