Does Huntsman Believe He’s in Crazytown?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

This morning, before Jon Huntsman spoke at a conference of college students in Concord, New Hampshire, the former Republican Utah governor took a few questions from a pack of ravenous reporters. (He could use all the free press he can get). And I managed to get in a question, asking the former US ambassador to China whether he believes his fellow contenders for the GOP presidential nomination are a wee bit too conservative for many American voters. Here’s the exchange:

Do you think the Republican field overall is just too far to the right for most American voters?

We’re in the pre-season. We’re in the silly season. And I say we’ve got a lot of voters out there who hunger not for political theatrics but for real ideas and real solutions—not sound bites, not red meat, but real solutions and ideas. Ultimately, that’s where our conversation must go

But is that a yes?

You know the cycles of politics as well as anybody. You hear the pre-season. You hear certain rhetoric. And then you move into the post-season, and there’s a different level of rhetoric. I say, I don’t follow those rules. I say, you square with the American people from Day One. Let them know who you are. They might not like everything you’re talking about. But I’m not going to vary. I’m not going to shift through the course of the campaign. I’m going to lay out what I think is doable and live with the consequences.

Mr. Huntsman was raised a polite boy. The candidate was essentially saying that the others are now pandering to right-wing voters, but he won’t. Which pretty much explains why he’s been struggling in the polls, and, despite practically moving to New Hampshire, has yet (according to those surveys) to catch fire among the Live-Free-or-Die GOPers here.

During his talk to the students, Huntsman came across as smart, affable, and slightly goofy. Unlike, say, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Ron Paul, he displayed no hatred for anyone: not liberals, not gays, not the government. And he was rather heartfelt when he responded to a despicable ad supposedly posted by a Ron Paul supporter attacking Huntsman as a pro-Chinese Manchurian candidate and citing his adoption of daughters in China and India as evidence of his secret agenda. Huntsman did compare the GOP primary race to a “circus.” But he’s not an angry fellow. His dominant emotional theme seemed to be disappointment. He’s sad the economy isn’t growing faster and that people don’t trust elected officials. He only minimally assailed Barack Obama.

Huntsman is the odd man out this year. And he keeps prompting the obvious question: what’s he doing here?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend