Jon Huntsman begins his campaign with a lot of background noise

By Ken Feltman 

Jon Huntsman enters the race with unlimited upside potential but possibly fatal downside problems. He can raise money. He makes a good impression on the campaign trail. He seems to relate well to the media. He is popular back home. He has an excellent C.V. He should do well with moderate voters.
But the scuttlebutt among several Republicans suggests that Huntsman will have trouble being more than a quixotic challenger unless he makes some adjustments. First, somehow he has acquired a reputation for arrogance. Delegates to the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans were quick to see arrogance when Huntsman cancelled, claiming a cold. They did not like being “blown off” by someone who – to their way of thinking – needs their support to get nominated. They also objected to what they perceived as his campaign’s “packing” the straw poll. Differing versions of the circumstances surrounding the straw poll have been reported. Whatever the truth, the controversy diminished Huntsman’s unexpectedly strong showing.
The primary whispered condemnation involves campaign strategist John Weaver. The whisperers suggest that Huntsman was planning a 2016 run but Weaver, for his own personal reasons, went ahead and put together the nuts and bolts for 2012. Huntsman agreed with Weaver’s assessment that the current GOP field is weak (Weaver calls it the weakest since 1940) and decided to run now. People who know Weaver have a very positive opinion of his skills. But he became the story.
The media covered this undercurrent, repeated and amplified by bloggers. True or false, the criticism of Huntsman and his quotable strategist may indicate that Huntsman begins his quest needing to make amends. He needs to quiet the negativism of the whisperers. Perhaps he needs to caution his strategist, even if he agrees with the assessment of the current candidates. Those candidates have a lot of followers who did not like the “weak field” comment.
I have never met Huntsman and have no idea whether he is arrogant, but I have talked recently to a lot of Republicans – from party leaders to hangers-on – who have used the word in describing Huntsman. All things considered, there is a lot of negativism swirling around and getting in the way. Maybe it is jealousy. Maybe it is just a few unfortunate comments by his strategist. But it is out there.
Will it all blow away? Not if there is more of the same from the Huntsman campaign.
(published concurrently in Politico)

About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is retired chairman of Radnor Inc., an international political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Known as a coalition builder, he has participated in election campaigns and legislative efforts in the United States and several other countries.
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3 Responses to Jon Huntsman begins his campaign with a lot of background noise

  1. P.D. says:

    Great insight!

  2. Howard says:

    I don’t understand how Huntman thinks he can win. He’s Obama’s guy. What is his strategy? Is it 2016 as you suggest?

  3. Patsy says:

    This is interesting. This must be a 2016 strategy.

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