Photo: Associated Press
After spending months as the cellar-dweller of the GOP 2012 presidential field, Jon Huntsman is launching himself on the media in a desperate attempt to get some national exposure.Since Friday, Huntsman has gone rogue on the GOP, taking to Twitter and cable news networks to slam his Republican rivals on everything from taxes to climate change and evolution.
Having sufficiently piqued the national media’s interest, Huntsman has tempered his criticism of the GOP as he launches a media blitz that includes cable news appearances every day this week. In his interviews this week, the former Utah Governor tried to establish himself as the only Republican in the race who can appeal to the independent voters necessary to win a general election.
“Ultimately, we are going up and standing against Barack Obama, and it’s about the best candidate who can do that,” Huntsman said on CNBC’s Squawkbox this morning. “If we get too far over on the political spectrum, we are not going to win in 2012.”
But while Huntsman’s media assault may win him some new Twitter followers, the problems with his new strategy are twofold:
First, it’s confusing. Huntsman may be getting his message out there, but it is still unclear what that message is. For example, after deriding U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann over the weekend for her claim that she would get gas prices below $2 a gallon, Huntsman told CNN’s Piers Morgan last night that he would be open to accepting the No. 2 spot on a Bachmann presidential ticket.
Second, attacking Republicans won’t boost Huntsman’s popularity among Republicans. His moderate tack might work in a general election, but it is unlikely to win him many friends during the primaries.
The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot notes that Huntsman’s strategy is clearly the work of campaign manager John Weaver, the mastermind behind John McCain’s 2000 win in the New Hampshire GOP primaries “who has long been at war with the GOP mainstream, and his candidates typically end up running against some element of the Republican base.
“The trouble with the strategy is that while it draws huzzahs from the media, attacking Republicans rarely appeals to enough . . . Republicans. This year in particular it’s hard to see much room for Mr. Huntsman running to the left of Mr. Romney. The GOP as “anti-science” was a main Democratic theme in the past decade but also isn’t likely to move many Republicans now. Perhaps Mr. Huntsman thinks this will carve out ideological space to be the “moderate” choice as vice president, which on present course is his only chance of getting on the ticket.”
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