|Huntsman gaining ground in NH|
The New Hampshire primary, which is underway even as I type this morning, will tell the tale by the end of today.
The inability of Huntsman to gain traction with right-wing voters may be the biggest tragedy to befall the Republican party since the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004. Jon Huntsman's experience in foreign policy, his demeanor, and his tenure as an executive leader in government, along with the serious and intelligent focus he places on the substantive policy issues of this election, should earn him a top three finish in every primary, and an occasional first place finish in states with more moderate electorate populations, like New Hampshire. Should, but may not. If only Huntsman had challenged the President's birth certificate instead of his economic policies.
Huntsman's clear qualifications for the presidency and his electability have not been sufficient thus far in moving him significantly closer to his party's nomination. Most Republicans would find themselves relatively comfortable with Huntsman's economic and national security positions (if they learned about them), and because of his consistently right-wing stance on deal-breaker issues like abortion and taxes, they could probably overlook his moderate views on gay rights and other social issues. The problem for the former governor and ambassador to China is his refusal to participate in the fiery, albeit groundless, Obama-bashing that energizes Tea Partiers, and his preference for reasonable policy-talk over the kind of divisive bullshit sideshow rhetoric that dominates the broadcast news cycle.
The base of the Republican party prefers swagger and style over substance and experience, although New Hampshire doesn't always roll that way. In the "live free or die" state, intelligent positions on key issues actually matter more than cowboy boots, a wry smile, and hefty dose of straight-talkin'. That's why Mitt Romney has held a 20+ point lead in New Hampshire in recent weeks, and it's precisely why Jon Huntsman may well get the boost he needs today.
Huntsman's cash flow is dangerously low, and after not participating in the Iowa caucus, he has staked his entire campaign on success in New Hampshire. A second place finish today, or maybe even a strong third place showing, could generate enough new interest and campaign cash to propel Huntsman through South Carolina, where no one would expect a strong showing from him, and on to Florida and the next round of primaries. A poor showing in New Hampshire today essentially ends Huntsman's run, unless he is willing to tap into personal sources of cash (i.e. rich dad) to keep his presidential run alive.