If you think this is harsh, imagine what they’ll do in the fall with Gingrich’s and Perry’s soundbites on Bain. No wonder Romney’s camp isn’t touting Huntsman’s endorsement today.
Every other political blogger on the web has offered their pet “why Huntsman failed” theory, so here’s mine: Plain and simple, he underestimated Romney’s appeal (which is not an easy thing to do). I think JH and his campaign made a bet that, when finally forced to face the prospect of nominating Mitt, Republican voters would blanch and turn instead to whichever Not Romney in the field looked most electable against Obama. That was, supposedly, Huntsman. He put one foot in the conservative camp with his policy platform, which embraced daring reforms like Paul Ryan’s budget, and the other foot in the centrist camp with cultural appeals to moderates (sniping at the base on evolution, etc), and then waited for the dam to break on voter antipathy to Romney. Never happened. Mitt had enough money, enough organization, and enough of an improvement on the stump since 2008 that for many Republicans there was no reason to doubt his conservative bona fides more than that of the guy who believes in AGW, worked for Obama, and got a bit too much suspicious praise from media liberals for his “reasonableness.” I’m tempted to say, in fact, that you can’t win the nomination if you evince contempt for the culture of grassroots conservatives, no matter how right-wing your actual policies might be, but McCain was always assumed to harbor that contempt and he did okay. The difference between 2008 and now, I think, is that Romney got better and became good enough to hold off a guy with much less name recognition who often seemed schizophrenic in his Republican identity. WaPo is playing the what-if game with Huntsman today, but here’s an interesting one that they missed: What if Romney was as awkward now as he was four years ago and still running ridiculously as a strong social conservative? Conversely, what if Romney four years ago was as (relatively) smooth as he is now and had run as a technocrat?
Exit question: How did the DNC forget the immortal Huntsman soundbite about Romney being a “perfectly lubricated weathervane”? Vote Perfectly Lubricated Weathervane in 2012!