“In an interview with POLITICO, Huntsman made clear that he plans to capitalize on election rules in New Hampshire and South Carolina that allow independent voters to cast ballots in the GOP presidential primary.

“‘These are wide open primaries, we forget that,’ Huntsman said, predicting an independent turnout in New Hampshire as high as 40 percent. ‘[I] think, given the fluidity of the race in these early states, that we stand a pretty good chance, and we’re putting that to the test.’…

“Later in the day, John Weaver, Huntsman’s chief strategist, sought to clarify the ex-governor’s intentions by saying: ‘We intend to do well, in New Hampshire and South Carolina and Florida, among Republicans – and every indication that we have, early on, is that we will do so. Now, the fact that a candidate can attract independent votes is a good indication that they can be more viable in a general election. And at the end of the day, this is about beating Barack Obama. But our goal is to do well – extremely well – among Republicans.'”

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“Mr. Huntsman is advancing the notion that there is a more nuanced, less reactionary strain in the party that feels underrepresented. And this seems to unduly irritate a lot of analysts. The feeling seems to be: We’ve already got this all figured out, and we know he’s wrong. So why is he still up there talking?

“Many politicians have qualities that can annoy those who cover them: self-importance, hypocrisy, elusiveness. But for whatever reason, none more offends the capital’s pundits and insiders than naïveté. We know the Republican Party won’t even entertain a conciliator as its nominee, just like we knew that Republicans after 2008 had been relegated to the minority for decades. We tend to ridicule anyone whose version of reality isn’t what we know it to be — until suddenly it is, and then you can bet that we saw it coming all along.

“Just to be clear: I’m not suggesting that Mr. Huntsman is likely to win. (Read my piece and you’ll see that I have my own reasons for skepticism.) But that doesn’t mean we should shower contempt on anyone who advances a competing theory of the moment. It costs us nothing to wait and find out.”

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“Huntsman is the latest no-labels flavor of the month, a straw man of the same people who have spent the past year smearing entitlement reformers as senior citizen-killers, budget hawks as Hitler’s spawn, border-security activists as racists, and leading GOP women as sluts, nuts and bimbos.

“Just like the failed 2008 GOP contender whose consultants are now fueling the Huntsman bid, McCain 2.0 is a big-spending accommodationist more in tune with the Democratic elite than with the conservative rank-and-file. In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday, Huntsman assailed the current economic crisis overseen by the Obama administration as ‘totally unacceptable’ and “totally un-American.” Yet, Huntsman retains nothing but ‘respect’ for his former boss in the White House and laments the loss of ‘civility’ wrought by “corrosive” political debates…

“McCain’s Straight Talk Express ran out of gas when his former media paramours inevitably turned against him — and his gambit to out-big government the Democrats blew up in his two faces. So it will be with McHuntsman and his campaign wheels to nowhere.”

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“Over the next few months, Mr. Huntsman is going to try a national version of the problem-solving approach he used in Utah: ‘Gather together stakeholders who have something invested in our economic well-being, whether small business people, bankers, traditional investors. I want to gather them together as I did in the election of 2004 when I ran for governor. Our economy was OK, but it was tired, and our entrepreneurs weren’t deploying their capital in our market. We went through a very rigorous exercise in 2004 before the election and did a very specific 10-point plan, and after the campaign I said, ‘This is our bible. Don’t try to sidetrack me; it’s the most important thing for the state.’ We went through all 10 points.’…

“Jon Huntsman, a discursive talker, brings a lot to the table. What remains to be seen is how he presents it all in a way Republican voters will want to buy. He’s been pegged as the man running toward the middle—with past positions in favor of cap-and-trade regimes (now repudiated) and gay civil unions. But to win, he still has to pull votes from the conservative base. How?

“‘When people look at what we’ve done,’ he says, ‘they’re going to say, ‘He’s a conservative problem solver.’ I’m going to point people in the direction of what we’ve done as governor. I’m pro-life, strongly pro-Second Amendment. I think there are enough voters who will say, ‘I may not like everything, but there’s enough here to like.'”

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