Jon Huntsman, for Candidate

With the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary only one and two weeks away, respectively, more and more newspaper editorial boards, political activists, religious leaders, and other powerful individuals and groups have been weighing in with their endorsements of Republican candidates vying to face off against President Obama next November.

As an opinion-shaper myself, I feel the heavy weight of my readers’ expectations that I, too, throw my substantial influence into the mix. And so, despite my own professional hesitation that my words could fundamentally reshape the very history that I study…

The Pietist Schoolman endorses Jon Huntsman, Jr. as its choice for presidential candidate.

Jon Huntsman
Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. - Creative Commons (Gage Skidmore)

Please note that I take no stance on who should actually be nominated, or elected. I mean, I like Huntsman in the sense that he seems to recognize that running for president isn’t a popularity contest (holding strong at 1% in national polls!) or all about raising money (according to the current FEC report, he’s raised 5% as much as the unchallenged incumbent, and only 14% the total of the other Mormon ex-governor in the GOP field).  But understand: it will be a blistering hot February day here in the North Star State before I waste even five minutes writing a blog post that actually takes a partisan political position.

I am simply endorsing Gov. Huntsman as the one candidate in the field with the highest, heretofore untapped potential to remain somewhat interesting and entertaining throughout this interminable excuse for a campaign season. And not interesting in a “Who knows how far back into the 19th century Ron Paul would turn back the clock?” sort of way. And not entertaining in a “How will Rick Perry embarrass himself this debate?” fashion.

Frankly, I hesitate to turn so much of the national spotlight on him, lest Huntsman’s website, to this point untested by heavy traffic, crash; I’m not sure he has enough in the coffers even to cover a visit from the Geek Squad. (I’m sure this endorsement will generate far more buzz than what he’s garnered from the endorsement of the newspaper with the fourth largest circulation in New Hampshire, or what Newt Gingrich gained from the plaudits of noted relief pitcher/roid rager John Rocker or mug shot model Gary Busey.) But, accepting that risk as the price of doing business, here’s why Jon Huntsman is deserving of all the attention that this endorsement will inevitably send his way.

1. His unparalleled aptitude for late night TV comedy

Was a high school-age Mitt Romney in a late Seventies rock band called Wizard? Can he sit in with Paul Shaffer and capably play a few bars of “Johnny B. Goode”?

Did Rick Perry volunteer to laugh at himself on “Weekend Update”? Or demonstrate a tremendous ability to keep his eyes glued to a teleprompter? (sorry – can’t embed this video, but click through to see the segment)

Let Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum seduce the wonks with their statespersonlike appearances on Sunday morning news shows. At this point in our nation’s history, I think it’s pretty clear that we sorely need a candidate prepared to puncture the balloon of his own gravitas, integrity, and preparedness for high office with the needle of self-deprecation and irony. Someone who can be victimized by a Daily Show prank and run with the joke.

Lamentably, while Huntsman’s website features a series of videos showcasing his “Unique Qualifications” for the presidency, none of them mentions his chops as a Chuck Berry cover band keyboardist or his deadpan sense of humor. The entire website seems to take the election of the most powerful man in the world, well, seriously. His daughters, on the other hand…

2. The vast potential for awkward moments in punditry and presidential debates

By all accounts, Huntsman has a pretty distinguished and diverse record of service in the private and public sectors, with the latter encompassing a term as governor of Utah and multiple stints as an American diplomat (more on that below). However, he is also on record as having supported the following, any one of which might explain his poll numbers among likely GOP primary voters:

  • Cap and trade policies to reduce global warming (he’s distanced himself from cap and trade, while still agreeing with climate change science — he also endorsed evolutionary biology, warning that Republicans ought not to be seen as the “anti-science” party)
  • A higher federal minimum wage
  • Higher state government spending
  • Civil unions for same-sex couples
  • Expanded legal immigration and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants
  • John McCain’s 2008 candidacy

For the sheer sake of political theater, who wouldn’t look forward to a Huntsman vs. Obama race if only to see Sean Hannity try to make the case for a self-described “Teddy Roosevelt” Republican? (Or to see Keith Olbermann scramble to demonize Huntsman as a die-hard Tea Partier?)

Oh, and about that most recent diplomatic appointment, as U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, from 2009-2011. Which, careful observers will note, coincides with the first years of the Obama presidency…

A fact that I’m sure Huntsman’s fellow Republicans would fall all over themselves to point out — you know, if Huntsman were currently relevant in the race. But let’s dare to believe that our endorsee can weather such an assault and then flash-forward to a possible October 2012 debate between former Ambassador Huntsman and current President Obama…

Can you imagine? Like a deleted scene out of Office Space… You quit your job, then the next year get the chance to point out all your former boss’ shortcomings on national television!

To his face!!

And if you do it convincingly enough, you take his job!!!

Anything more is just gravy at this point, but… This would also permit undergraduates to try to stump their American history professors with the following trivia question:

When was the last time a challenger in a presidential election ran against his former boss?

3. My own reputation as a political prognosticator

Okay, this is mostly interesting to me, but… A few months ago — in full hearing of one Bethel Political Science professor and at least a couple of students majoring in that discipline — I proclaimed that Jon Huntsman was “the dark horse” in the Republican field (or words to that effect).

So call this endorsement self-serving, but I have something of a vested interest in his remaining at least viable as a candidate.

After all, if he can’t pull off a decent finish in New Hampshire (the phrase “all your eggs in one basket” comes to mind) and is forced to withdraw before MLK Day, you all will have a hard time taking me seriously as the co-host of a political affairs podcast, which our Poli Sci and History departments will be producing again starting in late January or early February.

So if you happen to be a Republican voter living in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or another early voting state and you already have a preference, best wishes to your candidate! But if you’re undecided, I simply ask that you consider casting your vote for Jon Huntsman and so provide some CPR to a not-uninteresting campaign whose pulse is, at best, thready.

3 thoughts on “Jon Huntsman, for Candidate

  1. I’ve actually always thought Huntsman is the GOP’s most viable general election candidate. Why they’ve failed to notice him remains a mystery to me..

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