While it’s still early in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination, the question has been asked by many. Why is it, that the one GOP candidate who has corporate executive experience, government executive experience, extensive foreign policy experience (including with the United States’ most important foreign relationship – China) and with a track record of success implementing pro growth strategies, not getting any traction in national polls?
I’m talking of course about Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah, former CEO at Huntsman Chemical, former US Ambassador to China and Singapore (among other posts for President’s as far back as Ronald Reagan).
I have some ideas. One, he’s not gimmicky. Cain’s 999 is a step in the right direction in that it addresses tax reform; but as we’ve seen it’s not grounded in practical economics and recent analyses suggest that Cain’s plan would raise taxes on 84% of Americans. Huntsman has had a major tax reform plan since day one modeled on what actually worked in Utah. He writes op-eds explaining his stances on complex issues such as financial reform and economic revitalization and in general tends to not speak in sound bites.
Two, he’s not incendiary. He’s said he wanted to win by taking the high road and will strive to keep to the issues of the day without demonizing his opponents (of either party); we’ll see if that’s possible in this media climate.
Three, he’s not controversial. His biggest press so far has been when he essentially tweeted that he supports the scientific method…and somehow that’s what became controversial!
Fourth, he scares the establishment. Romney has already received over $7M in contributions from finance, with Goldman Sachs topping his list, Perry has pulled in $1.9M so far from finance, while Huntsman has pulled in $400K. By the way, President Obama has pulled in $3.9M so far from this sector. That’s why Huntsman can criticize Dodd-Frank in the WSJ op-eds while Romney’s and Obama’s coziness suggests we should expect nothing but more recklessness should either of those two occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January 20, 2013 (or January 21st, since the 20th is a Sunday).
So sadly, if we flip the reasons why Huntsman isn’t gaining traction in the primary – yet – we see that the early route to get noticed is to be gimmicky, speak in sound bites, play attack politics, espouse fringe ideas, all the while promising the status quo to those financing your campaign. Let us hope as real elections begin taking place, that cooler (and smarter) heads will prevail.