Runner-up Headline: Who's up for some hot and heavy 'RINO' on 'RINO' action? The only shot Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign has at surviving the month of January is to make a fairly dramatic splash in New Hampshire. Unlike primary voters in the other "big three" early states -- Iowa and South Carolina -- Granite State Republicans tend to gravitate toward more moderate candidates (eg, McCain in 2000, 2008). Huntsman's center-right sensibilities at least stand a chance of resonating in New Hampshire, where the former Utah Governor is polling in the mid-single digits. That's not bad, by his standards. With most public opinion surveys showing New Englander Mitt Romney running away with the New Hampshire primary, Huntsman has decided to turn his guns on his moderate counterpart. His message: Mitt and I may both be moderates, but at least I'm not a shameless, finger-in-the-wind panderer. We've already seen one hard-hitting attack ad from the Perry camp along these lines; here's Huntsman's first major foray into the genre:
Sure, the stimulus "flip flop" clip is unfair -- Romney really hasn't ever supported Obama's failed stimulus -- and yes, Huntsman is knocking Romney from the left on global warming, but this is the sort of ad that could leave a mark. Huntsman didn't even touch abortion or immigration in this spot; I'll let Erick Erickson fill you in on those details. Romney's biggest obstacle to winning the Republican nomination is a persistent, nagging uncertainty among the conservative electorate about what the candidate truly believes, and would actually do if elected. Would he govern as the strong conservative he portrayed in 2008, or would his "perfectly lubricated weather vane" blow him off course the moment ideological adversity strikes? Romney will offer some carefully calibrated explanations for several of his highest-profile reversals, and will shrug off others. His sympathizers to will contend that he simply tailored his conservative principles to remain competitive in a very liberal state (he was "running for office, for Pete's sake," to quote one prominent Romney supporter), and that today's Mitt Romney is the authentic Mitt Romney. He's leading in some crucial early polls, but he seems to hit a ceiling around 26 percent nationally among Republicans. The GOP base certainly hasn't rejected Mitt Romney, but he still hasn't made the sale -- perhaps for the reasons laid out in the ad above.