Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman isn’t likely to be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Neither he nor most of the other hopefuls has been able to make serious inroads into the lead former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has built.
Still, Mr. Huntsman had better do well in Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire to have any chance; he skipped Iowa and gambled heavily on New Hampshire, even though the Granite State is a neighbor of Massachusetts and has long warmed to Mr. Romney.
Mr. Huntsman’s problems, if one believes the pundits, include his failure early in the campaign to identify himself for voters as a conservative. Perhaps he hasn’t gotten much traction because although he is conservative on many issues, he suffers from a reasonable streak. He thinks there’s something to global warming, for instance, and said he would take his cues from science rather than ideology on that topic. Also, he hasn’t thrown red meat to conservative voters who, like liberals in the Democratic Party, often determine primary election outcomes.
Still, Mr. Huntsman has Mr. Romney worried, at least a little. Why else would Mr. Romney summon New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to New Hampshire to impugn Mr. Huntsman’s integrity? And why else would Mr. Romney criticize Mr. Huntsman for daring to serve a Democratic president? Never mind that the service was as U.S. ambassador to China, one of the most sensitive posts a U.S. diplomat can hold these days.
Mr. Huntsman didn’t pull his punches in response to that criticism. In the second of two GOP primary debates, Mr. Huntsman said, “I was criticized last night by Gov. Romney for putting my country first. He criticized me while he was out raising money, for serving my country in China — yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking who — what political affiliation the president is.
“I want to be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country; I will always put my country first.”
Mr. Romney rebutted the challenger, saying in part, “I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agent that does not include President Obama’s agenda.”
To which Mr. Huntsman replied, “This nation is divided… because of attitudes like that. The American people are tired of the partisan division. They have had enough…”
Mr. Huntsman is right. But when campaigning for the votes of citizens whose overriding goal is to unseat his former boss, being right doesn’t count for much.