3. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman’s presidential candidacies

It’s always easy to look back after a campaign fails and say that it was a bad idea. But in the cases of both Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry, it really should have been clear from the outset that neither would work.

The theory of the Huntsman case was a sort of post-partisan appeal from a “grown-up” in the field. But that’s always a tough sell in a party primary, let alone at such a hard-right moment in the Republican Party. Add to that a candidate who’s been out of public office for years, and who was an Obama appointee, and it became tougher still.

It was clear by the fall that Huntsman’s candidacy wasn’t taking flight, so post-partisanship took a back seat to swinging at the front-running Mitt Romney. But Huntsman never seemed to have the love of the game that’s required to run for president — the town halls and ice cream socials and on-the-run stops candidates make several times a week.

Perry had the opposite problem — he was the ideal primary candidate on paper. He would have been a much tougher sell in a general election.