He picked a good day to announce. The only other major news story percolating is Obama ignoring Congress and his own lawyers to wage war in Libya, and lord knows the press doesn’t want to cover that.
Everyone’s heard the story of how Huntsman dropped out of high school to become a rock star. Alas, he never made it. Or did he?
A few weeks ago, I was up in New Hampshire for Jon Huntsman’s maiden swing through the state as a possible — it’s now official — presidential candidate. The rest of the national press corps seemed to be there, too. At many of the events, we reporters outnumbered actual voters, sometimes vastly. (Matt Bai describes this crush of media folks in the lede to his new Huntsman profile.) That’s somewhat understandable for a candidate like Huntsman who has potential, though not yet many supporters. I wasn’t at Huntsman’s announcement speech in New Jersey this morning, but word on the ground is that, as in New Hampshire, there were still more members of the media present than actual voters.
Isn’t this basically just a smarter, more polished version of a Charlie Crist 2012 campaign? Slick, mavericky governor, a “different kind of Republican,” willing to break prior commitments to chase his national ambitions, reviled by the base for his centrism and his chumminess with Obama. (More than just chumminess in the case of Mr. Ambassador, of course.) I actually admire his hubris in jumping in after the brutal RINO-stomping Sunshine Charlie received in Florida last year against Rubio. Crist, at least, had a reasonable expectation of victory early on; Huntsman is a longshot, swimming upstream against both the tea party and Romney’s better-funded, higher profile campaign, and destined to take a beating from the grassroots while he’s running. And yet he’s undaunted. In fact, not only is he undaunted, he’s planning to run a “mellow” campaign, seemingly focused less on policy differences than on a stylistic contrast that has his media fans swooning. His strategy, I guess, is that the base’s disgust with Romney and the establishment’s disgust with grassroots bombthrowers like Bachmann will synergize into a swell of support for Huntsman as “the un-Cola” — although that seems to be Pawlenty’s strategy too, and Pawlenty’s conservative cred is sturdier than Huntsman’s is. Presumably JH thinks he’ll handle that at the debates: His resume is well-rounded and he has the presidential look and sound down cold, so he probably thinks he’ll be able to outshine T-Paw and impress undecideds dissatisfied with the rest of the field. With an assist, of course, from the ton of free media he’s going to get from his press corps fan club.
Here’s his new ad to formally launch the campaign, which for some reason omits any image of Huntsman even though he’s desperate to raise his profile among voters. I get why they’re pushing the motorbike imagery and emphasizing how JH supposedly prefers greasy spoons to cocktail parties — remember Scott Brown’s truck? — but that’s a tough sell for a guy from a famous wealthy family who’s sufficiently urbane to have mastered not one but two Chinese dialects. Anyway, watch for the part where narrator Brian Dennehy (yes, the actor) mentions how Huntsman never raises his voice while the word “Calm” flashes on the screen. Made me laugh out loud. When did that become a selling point worthy of inclusion in a launch ad, especially with dullsville candidates like Mitt and T-Paw already in the field?