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Why did Huntsman, though offering a conservative economic plan, not attempt to appeal to conservative voters?

When, in January, I endorsed Jon Huntsman for President, I did so with reservations, pointing out that his “record has been far from perfect.  And, in the course of this campaign, he seems to have a predilection to attack his fellow Republicans — and mock conservatives.”

In her column this weekend, Peggy Noonan offered a similar perspective on his failure to gain traction among Republican voters:

Jon Huntsman was hobbled because he didn’t seem to identify on any level with Republicans on the ground, or particularly like them. Voters don’t take to you when they know you don’t take to them. Sarcastic tweets about global warming were not the beginning of his campaign, but the end.

(Read the whole thing, in large measure to why she contends the “The GOP should go back to being John Wayne.”)

It is passing strange that the Republican candidate with perhaps the most consistently conservative economic plan and a conservative record in office (as well as executive experience) would act as if he were running against the citizens whose votes he most needed to win — and whose political views mostly closely coincided with his own.

I’m not sure Peggy is right when she says that Huntsman didn’t particularly like Republicans, but he certainly didn’t campaign like he did.  And that’s one reason he never emerged as the leading “non-Romney” even if he did have an economic plan which embraced Tea Party principles and which had the potential to resonate with rank-and-file conservative voters.

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15 Comments

  1. This is so true. Thank you (and also Peggy Noonan) for helping me make sense of this. I thought Huntsman was just what we needed in 2012 but his campaign was unfortunately one misstep after another. If you want to be taken seriously as a candidate, why on earth would you have your daughters create a silly music video??? He seemed so lost and without a clue on how to connect with voters, which is a shame because he had some great ideas.

    Comment by Magpie — April 15, 2012 @ 10:54 pm - April 15, 2012

  2. I don’t understand this post. Why didn’t Huntsman appeal to conservative voters? Who knows and who cares? The only reason you endorsed him in the first place, Dan, is because you knew he’d spit in the face of social conservatives by giving you the “relationship recognition” you so desperately crave.

    Comment by Seane-Anna — April 15, 2012 @ 11:24 pm - April 15, 2012

  3. what are you confused about? The GOP has decided that theyre going to pander to the racist, homophobic, bibles-n-guns uneducated redneck “the south will rise again!” scumbags for their votes.

    they dont care about anyone with even a shred of intelligence. they want the plebe vote. and they get it. and then you insecure white homosexuals act all shocked.

    jeez, no wonder your dad never loved you, Dan.

    Comment by Little_Kiwi — April 16, 2012 @ 12:51 am - April 16, 2012

  4. The same reason Jon Huntsman was disliked by the conservative base was the same reason he was beloved by medial liberals: he clearly despised conservatives.

    If people who would never, ever vote for a Republican love a Republican candidate, that should tell you something.

    Comment by V the K — April 16, 2012 @ 7:28 am - April 16, 2012

  5. V, I agree with the first part of your first sentence, but would tweak the second part as “he make it appear he despised conservatives.”

    Look at his economic policy; built upon ideas embraced by conservative economists (or those respected by such). He governed as a conservative.

    Could he then like the policies, but dislike their authors and advocates?

    The liberals liked him because they believed, based on some of his rhetoric, that he was running against the GOP. But, were they aware of his record in Utah and his policies in the campaign?

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — April 16, 2012 @ 8:41 am - April 16, 2012

  6. It’s about trust, Dan. When someone clearly doesn’t like you, and clearly disagrees with you philosophically, how can you trust him when he says something you agree with; especially if he is a politician?

    It’s a problem Romney has as well. He has spent his entire career as an accommodating political moderate (at best). He’s now putting forth policies that repudiate much of his prior career as a Massachusetts politician. So, people rightfully ask what does he really believe, and what will he really do?

    Liberal “support” for Huntsman wasn’t based on anything other than his perceived disdain for conservative. Liberals like to pick out a Republican every once in a while and say “That’s the kind of Republican I could support” so they can claim to be open-minded and non-partisan. They did the same thing with John McCain right up until he became the nominee. But they never really liked him, they just liked the deniability he gave them. If every liberal who ever said “John McCain is the kind of Republican I could vote for” actually voted for him in 2008, he would have won in the biggest landslide in American history.

    Taking a liberal at his word is always a mistake. Always.

    Comment by V the K — April 16, 2012 @ 10:43 am - April 16, 2012

  7. The liberals liked him because they believed, based on some of his rhetoric, that he was running against the GOP. But, were they aware of his record in Utah and his policies in the campaign?

    I for one was fully cognizant of his policies. See, I really don’t dislike conservative policies quite so much as I dislike modern conservatives (especially the breed that live here and on other American-dominated forums). Hence why I read The Orange Book and am currently subscribed to The Economist. Economic liberalism suddenly seems a lot more appealing when the people advocating to me aren’t calling me a git or a twat, or referring to me in the third-person with the pronoun ‘it’. Funny how that works, steer clear of insults and treat someone as a human being, and they listen to you.

    Jon Huntsman, as you have so eloquently point out, was the conservative who did not act like a conservative. There was no anti-intellectualism or anti-elitism, he didn’t attack ‘liberals’ at every turn, he didn’t talk about ‘Marxists’, he didn’t rail against the ‘mainstream media’. He held the views, but eschewed the rhetoric. That’s why I was hoping he might go further, and finally decouple the views from the rhetoric, at which point the rhetoric could finally die.

    I was never hopeful though. The rhetoric is absolutely endemic at this point, and appears to have pretty much taken over both wings of US politics now, resulting in a rhetoric arms race with no winner. Hence why I’m slowly pulling me out of my political hobby. It was fun four or five years ago, but things are well and truly out of hand and I’ve no idea what can possibly change things now. One side or the other would have to stand down and just not use these vicious attack and meaningless talking points, but each is too scared of losing ground so it just gets worse and worse. Personally, I’ve just given up.

    Comment by Serenity — April 16, 2012 @ 11:01 am - April 16, 2012

  8. what are you confused about? The GOP has decided that theyre going to pander to the racist, homophobic, bibles-n-guns uneducated redneck “the south will rise again!” scumbags for their votes.

    Little Titmouse makes my point, but from a different church and different choir stall.

    Establishment Republicans who lean RINO are embarrassed by the social conservatives and the Bible thumpers. Look back at Goldwater’s contempt and the way Huckleberry has attempted to bridge “the gap” of establishment respectability by softening his tone and leaning moderate to liberal.

    Little Titmouse is determined that we So-Cons are racist, homophobic, hair trigger rednecks itching to shoot anyone we don’t like. Establishment Republicans don’t use that vocabulary, but when we talk about when life begins and reigning in abortion, they see votes being swept down the sewer. The truth is, establishment Republicans are often more comfortable as the butt of liberals jokes than they are associating with So-Cons.

    It naturally follows that gays who are out of step with the overwhelmingly liberal gay “community” are treated like pariahs.

    One misconception that the Republican establishment has is that RINOs can muster more votes than conservatives. The establishment believes that the So-Cons have no place to go, so their vote is a given. So-Cons are the equivalent of the plantation blacks and the secure Jews in the Democrat base.

    Jon Huntsman ran with a sneer and a disdain for those who didn’t choose to be on his page. That requires a charisma that he simply does not have. In fact, I doubt that charisma is on any extended list of Huntsman’s characteristics.

    Reagan ran as a conservative and won as a conservative. His reelection was one for the record books. He did not run on overturning Roe v Wade and he did not clean up the bureaucracy, in spite of the strong and doable Grace Commission reports. Reagan did the possible. That is the reality of politics.

    We conservatives and the TEA Party are ready, willing and able to take on the tipping point crisis this country is in. We can postpone the So-Con debates in exchange for conservative guts in taking on unfunded and underfunded entitlements. Jon Huntsman and Little Titmouse look at us and they both see the same thing. Huntsman’s mouth is far more civilized and he actually has a mind, but his bias and repulsion are no different than those of Little Titmouse.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 16, 2012 @ 12:29 pm - April 16, 2012

  9. Jon Huntsman (….) – There was no anti-intellectualism or anti-elitism, he didn’t attack ‘liberals’ at every turn, he didn’t talk about ‘Marxists’, he didn’t rail against the ‘mainstream media’.

    Oh, brother! No “anti-elitism” is a freudian slip of the first order.

    So, the political correctness rules are:

    1) Don’t pay any attention to the bias of the mainstream media.

    2) Don’t disrespect the words and thoughts of “certified” intellectuals. (How it is determined a person is an “intellectual” is not known. Presumably a liberal knows one when a liberal hears one.)

    3) Give anything a liberal says the courtesy of your full attention, because all liberals are playing by the rules of logic, rhetoric and debate and deserve respect, if not admiration. Like: “I won.” Like: ” I inherited….” Like: “You will have to pass the bill to find out what is in it.” Like: never bring a budget up for a vote in the Senate. Like: bipartisanship means do as we say. Like: Compromise is caving 100% to our demands.

    4.) Socialism can not be traced to Marx, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Chavez, Salazar, Franco, Mussolini, et. al. Making any connection of any sort between bad guys and socialism is verboten. The good guy socialists go unnamed along with any mighty accomplishments.

    Thank you for the pompous explanation of how we “can all get along” in the fine style of Jon Huntsman.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 16, 2012 @ 12:45 pm - April 16, 2012

  10. Look back at Goldwater’s contempt

    Wait, I’m seriously not sure I read that right. Did you just call Barry Goldwater a RINO, or did I actually read your post wrong?

    So-Cons are the equivalent of the plantation blacks and the secure Jews in the Democrat base.

    While I wouldn’t phrase it like that, you are pretty much right. What are social conservatives going to do? Vote Democrat? Don’t make me laugh. Not vote? Effectively handing the election to Barack Obama? Even more ridiculous. Form a third party? Look at history, third parties in the United States have never fared well, and no new ones will unless they actually manage to unseat one of the big two.

    We can postpone the So-Con debates in exchange for conservative guts in taking on unfunded and underfunded entitlements.

    Yeah… I look forward to you ignoring every single red rag the Democrats wave in front of you.

    Actually, I’m lying. I look forward to you charging at several of them, and only injuring yourselves in the process as you whine about how they successfully goaded you yet again.

    1) Don’t pay any attention to the bias of the mainstream media.

    Don’t exaggerate the bias of the mainstream media, don’t characterise media bias as being entirely against conservatives (yes, I know, breaking the unwritten rule, bite me), and most importantly, don’t use ‘mainstream media bias’ as a tactic to dodge questions you don’t like.

    2) Don’t disrespect the words and thoughts of “certified” intellectuals.

    I’d prefer you didn’t disrespect anyone’s words and thoughts myself, since there’s really no bloody need for it. Disagree all you like, but a basic level of respect should be considered mandatory.

    (How it is determined a person is an “intellectual” is not known. Presumably a liberal knows one when a liberal hears one.)

    Well in the old says they looked like these guys and went around doing the non-trivial task of building an entirely new political philosophy and system of government.

    3) Give anything a liberal says the courtesy of your full attention, because all liberals are playing by the rules of logic, rhetoric and debate and deserve respect, if not admiration. Like: “I won.” Like: ” I inherited….” Like: “You will have to pass the bill to find out what is in it.” Like: never bring a budget up for a vote in the Senate. Like: bipartisanship means do as we say. Like: Compromise is caving 100% to our demands.

    Like: Quoting one man destroys an entire philosophy. Like: Knocking down strawmen is an honourable debating tactic. Like: Mercilessly denigrating your opponents when you very clearly will need their cooperation later (newsflash: that ‘system of government’ was built on the idea of consensus in government, so you will need them) is a good idea.

    This bumper sticker style of debating is a part of what I hate. I want to debate with people, not at them. But I’ve tried that here and there’s no point. Did you know I actually have fun in some other debates? I come out of them and feel like something was accomplished? Like we both got something out of it? Don’t you ever want to feel like that?

    4.) Socialism can not be traced to Marx, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Chavez, Salazar, Franco, Mussolini, et. al. Making any connection of any sort between bad guys and socialism is verboten. The good guy socialists go unnamed along with any mighty accomplishments.

    Pointing to Barack Obama to someone who has lived in a country where socialism was once the norm, promoted by one party and tolerated by the others, and calling him a socialist is a joke. He’s not a damn socialist, he’s not even close. He’s a middle-of-the-road corporatist who knows how to sound like a social democrat, and I know someone is going to bring out the Umpteen Reasons Why Barack Obama is Totally a Socialist list yet again and don’t even bother wasting your time, I have seen and rejected the whole list half a dozen times already.

    The words ‘socialist’ and ‘Marxist’ are so ridiculously diluted and overused today that they mean absolutely nothing. They’re just insults against anyone right-wingers don’t like, and that means they’re rapidly losing their punch too. You’ll have to think of some new words soon.

    Comment by Serenity — April 16, 2012 @ 2:04 pm - April 16, 2012

  11. I have seen and rejected the whole list half a dozen times already.

    Translation: “Don’t befuddle my dim little brain with facts.”

    Comment by V the K — April 16, 2012 @ 2:31 pm - April 16, 2012

  12. Sorry to have confused you, Serenity. My reference to Goldwater was his contempt for the “religious right” and what you people today call the So-Cons. I am not clear how you interpreted this as my thinking Goldwater was a RINO, but that was nowhere in my mind or on any horizon I meant to illuminate.

    As to you wanting to debate and come away feeling good about yourself, I always have empathy for those who fail and try to improve. Perhaps you might try substituting “opinion” with reason, facts and logical direction. That would mean you will have to be a bit less prone to quibble, shift, nit-pick, equivocate, dodge, protest, and engage is sophisms and duplicity.

    Honest debate stands on its merits, not subterfuge.

    But crying “strawman” and going in circles and limiting the range to your opinions and niggling over meanings and setting the rules for the immediate present which are subject to immediate change according to need and utility are good for ego feeding, perhaps, but darned boring to those who do not worship the glow of your brilliance.

    It would seem that if your methods enjoy success elsewhere, you would strive to dazzle that audience.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 16, 2012 @ 2:36 pm - April 16, 2012

  13. This bumper sticker style of debating is a part of what I hate. I want to debate with people, not at them.

    Comment by Serenity — April 16, 2012 @ 2:04 pm – April 16, 2012

    Lie.

    If you think I’m enjoying this, I am. A lot. No matter who wins the next election, everyone else in this thread will have multiple reasons to hate them. As for me, I stopped caring about two months ago. Makes very little difference to me either way, so I intend to antagonize all of you as much as possible and have some fun.

    Comment by Serenity — November 5, 2011 @ 6:40 am – November 5, 2011

    Typical, though. Whenever lefties start losing, they start screaming for the mercy and kumbayah that they were so contemptuous of previously, and start asking to be treated by the rules upon which they spat before.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — April 16, 2012 @ 3:46 pm - April 16, 2012

  14. And that, NDT, is why I have never taken any of the silly little git’s comments seriously.

    Comment by V the K — April 16, 2012 @ 3:54 pm - April 16, 2012

  15. Huntsman took a very, very high profile position in the Obama Administration, Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

    That’s why he never had a chance to gain traction. The US political paradigm doesn’t include robust analog to the “Loyal Opposition”. Few conservatives trusted him from the git-go.

    It had little to nothing to do with his economic policies, with his record as Governor of Utah, or with where he stands on the Social Conservative – Libertine spectrum.

    It was the Ambassador… not only that he accepted the position, but just as much, if not more, that the Obama Administration offered it to him. They may have done so in hopes of neutralizing him in the future, in which case they were correct, and he got played. Not exactly a recommendation. Or because he has a view of America’s role in the world that lines up well with the current Administration.

    What could conservatives possibly find objectionable in that? :D

    Comment by BikerDad — April 18, 2012 @ 4:50 pm - April 18, 2012

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