Something new from Fred “Demon Sheep” Davis, whom you may remember as the brains behind McCain’s famous “Obama/celebrity” ad three years ago. This feels like an outtake from some Lifetime TV movie, maybe right after the hero’s had a big fight with his lady and has hit the road to clear his head and “find himself.” Even so, I kind of like it: It’s painfully goofy but Huntsman himself is not, so he doesn’t have to worry about being tarred with corniness by association. And since his big enemy right now is low name recognition, anything he can do to get noticed helps him out. This will get him noticed.
Can he win? NYT political analyst Matt Bai thinks so:
The turnout in next year’s presidential primary, on the other hand, will probably reach 60 percent. That means the influence of the most conservative, most motivated activists will almost certainly be diluted.
Second, it’s vital to remember that next year’s primaries will be the first since 1996 where Democrats haven’t had their own nomination fight going on. In other words, in the last two contested Republican primary seasons, independents in “open states” like New Hampshire split their votes between Republicans and Democrats. But this year, all of them will be voting for a Republican.
This is huge. Consider that had it not been for all the independents who voted for John McCain in 2000, Bill Bradley might well have won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire — and who knows what would have happened after that. (I’ll leave that to Newt Gingrich to explore in one of his alternative histories.)
All of this suggests, I think, that a less doctrinaire candidate might have a real shot in New Hampshire, once the campaign really gets underway and voters get a chance to assess the field. That’s when all the polling actually starts to mean something.
I do think he’s got a shot in New Hampshire — a small one, but still. He’s an impressive speaker so he should do well at the debates. He’s planning to spend almost all of his time in that state (some in Florida too) while Pawlenty hedges his bets between Iowa and New Hampshire, so that might give him a leg up on T-Paw. If Pawlenty starts to fade early, Huntsman’s the obvious alternative for NH centrists who are squeamish about Romney for whatever reason. Question, though, per Bai’s “operation chaos” scenario: If the left really believes that Huntsman’s the biggest threat to Obama in the general election, wouldn’t left-leaning independents in New Hampshire want to vote strategically and support someone else? Sink him while you can, because if he wins New Hampshire he’s got a decent shot at Florida, at least, and who knows where things go from there as he and the Iowa/South Carolina winner square off for the nomination.
The more likely scenario, I think, if Huntsman is starting to surge in New Hampshire at year’s end is that the GOP establishment will swing behind either Pawlenty or Romney as an alternative. Huntsman has too many liabilities to be a safe bet against a Bachmann, Cain, or Palin in South Carolina or other southern primaries, and the establishment assuredly wants to avoid nominating Bachmann, Cain, or Palin. So they’ll rally to Mitt or T-Paw as someone who, unlike JH, can win base votes as well as centrists.