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Campaign 2012: No more promises from Huntsman

January 16, 2012 |  1:43 pm

Jon Huntsman suspends his campaign
When word leaked that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was giving up his race for the GOP presidential nomination, it triggered a slew of stories about the end of a "promising" campaign. The best illustration comes from the Associated Press' Kasie Hunt and Philip Elliott, who wrote, "Jon Huntsman abandoned his once-promising campaign for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday and endorsed Mitt Romney as the man 'best equipped to defeat Barack Obama.' "

Promising to whom, exactly? Journalists with a soft spot for people who seem like moderates (even if they really aren't)?

Huntsman's problem from the start of the campaign was his inability to electrify GOP voters. Reporters may have loved his thoughtfulness and his willingness to see the complexities presented by big issues. But those aren't the primary qualities most Republicans have been looking for this go-around -- they're nice to have, maybe, but not part of what's seen as essential to beating President Obama in November.

GOP voters have responded instead to fiery rhetoric about dramatically changing the direction of the country and the government (see Reps. Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) and to outside-the-Beltway achievement and acumen (see Herman Cain and Mitt Romney). They also have flirted with outsized personalities (Bachmann, Gingrich and, particularly, Texas Gov. Rick Perry). They haven't gone for Huntsman-style wonkery unless it's dressed up in "historic" terms, as Gingrich provides it.

On top of that, Huntsman isn't fiery, is a government insider, isn't lights-out charismatic and doesn't have the everyman background that former Sen. Rick Santorum, the grandson of a coal miner, has been touting. Put those factors together and it's easy to see why Huntsman had trouble claiming even a fleeting turn in this campaign's fickle spotlight, regardless of the assumptions of the campaign press corps.

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-- Jon Healey

Credit:  Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

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