Former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman hasn’t yet officially announced his presidential candidacy — he’s expected to do that June 21 — but one of his top aides has already rhetorically reduced the rest of the GOP field to a “bunch of cranks.”
“There’s a simple reason our party is nowhere near being a national governing party,” veteran GOP strategist John Weaver said in an interview with Esquire. “No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.”
Frankly, Weaver sounds like the crank. Even though the Huntsman campaign said it wouldn’t specifically target other candidates by name, Weaver did just that, mocking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (“What version are we on now? Mitt 5.0? 6.0?”) and calling former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty “a nice guy pretend[ing] to be angry.”
That’s all very easy for Weaver to say. He works for a candidate who is barely “out there” and who made the confusing choice not to participate in the CNN GOP presidential debate Monday (to the criticism of the local paper, The Manchester Union-Leader). CNN viewers will know Huntsman is a Mormon who rides a motorcycle and speaks fluent Mandarin — CNN anchors can’t seem to cite those facts enough when they mention him — but his (impressive) record is far from household knowledge.
That relative obscurity makes Weaver’s criticisms seem especially rich — but it’s actually the first part of his comment about the GOP that’s most perplexing. What makes Weaver think Republicans are “nowhere near being a national governing party”? The large majority GOP-ers enjoy in the House? The narrowed margin between the Democratic majority and Republican minority in the Senate? A majority of Republican governors? Historic pick-ups of hundreds of seats in state legislatures in 2010? Maybe Weaver’s remark doesn’t have anything to do with the number of seats Republicans hold. Perhaps it has to do with legislation — a groundbreaking budget that actually addresses entitlement reform, perhaps? Or is it the Tea Party — a movement that has so effectively mobilized so many?
What made Weaver say it? It seems like such a typically cynical comment from a political insider. That’s not to say Republican elected officials and 2012 candidates shouldn’t keep their heads down and work hard to promote the ideas they believe will benefit the country. Nor is it to say the 2012 elections will be easy. It’s just to say GOP strategists, whose job it is to craft a successful campaign, shouldn’t be too down on Republican chances.
If Weaver doesn’t recognize Republican strength, at least he recognizes President Barack Obama’s vulnerability.
“The frustrating thing is that Obama’s beatable,” Weaver said. “But to beat Obama you have to be bigger than Obama.”
Bigger, how? By criticizing Republicans?
At the risk of sounding repetitive, Weaver would be better served to tout Huntsman’s accomplishments — after all, he has plenty of them. This video, which Huntsman released to announce the announcement of his campaign (and which doesn’t even feature Huntsman himself on that ubiquitous motorcycle), doesn’t quite do the trick: