Huntsman scolds his fellow Republicans for their internecine "onslaught of negative and personal attacks, not worthy of the American people." He also hits President Obama -- his erstwhile boss -- for relying on "corrosive" class warfare to divide the country to gain a temporary political edge. Returning to his tired "trust deficit" trope, he called on center-right voters to unite behind the man he believes to be most capable of defeating Obama in November: Mitt Romney. It's unclear how much of an impact Huntsman's endorsement will have; were many of his fans preparing to jump ship to any other campaign? In an insightful post-mortem, BuzzFeed's Ben Smith argues that Huntman's fatal flaw was that he allowed himself to remain frozen in a cautious and chastened crouch, as if early 2009's Obamania had never subsided:
Jon Huntsman had his moment. It was, unfortunately for his presidential bid, the late winter of 2009. Then the Republican Party faced a choice: Did Obama's election raise real questions about the party's future and identity, as Governor Huntsman told any reporter who would dial the 801 area code from Washington? Or was it, as figures like Haley Barbour argued, merely a moment that would pass? Then Huntsman contemplated an alternate future for Republican Party. They would be modernizers and reformers, less hostile to the role of an activist government that had been vindicated in Obama's election, and finally untethered from the fantasy of a pure Constitutionalist past worshipped by fringe figures like Rep. Ron Paul.
“It’s just a matter of enduring the early days of transformation – it’s never going to be pretty and it’s never going to be fun to watch it play out beyond a pure entertainment level,” Huntsman told us back then. “We haven’t had a healthy, rigorous discussion about our future in many years, and meanwhile the world has changed. Unless we want to be consigned to minority-party status for a long time, we need to recognize these tectonic shifts happening under our feet.” There was, though, another argument: Republicans should hold firm, and wait for the Obama delusion to subside. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Congressional "Party of No" made this bet, big, in February of 2009, when they voted en masse against the stimulus. Huntsman found himself immediately isolated inside his party, as opposition trumped modernization. And the Tea Party rose up to cheer the most strident reaction against Obama.
The Examiner's Phil Klein explores the "walking contradition" of Huntsman's mystifying (and failed) campaign strategy:
The biggest contradiction of all was the way he fostered his moderate image even though his record in Utah as well as his policy proposals were generally conservative -- and certainly well to the right of frontrunner Mitt Romney. He endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan's budget and had a tax plan that was bolder than any other candidate. Yet instead of running somewhere to the right of Romney and to the left of Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, he ended up supporting many policies to the right of Perry and Bachmann, while positioning himself to the left of Romney in New Hampshire.
Bear in mind that this effective takedown of Romney was approved by a man who now sanctimoniously denounces negative campaigning.
UPDATE - Poof! The 'weather vane' spot (preserved for posterity above) has vanished from Huntsman's official YouTube page. Endorsements can work political miracles, my friends.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography