We were honest about our concerns about Huntsman,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said at a Politico breakfast event Tuesday. “I think Huntsman would have been a very tough candidate.”
As for the president, he liked Mr. Huntsman enough to appoint him ambassador to China in 2009. Mr. Messina, who was working in the White House at the time, said he helped Mr. Huntsman win Senate confirmation.
“As someone who helped manage his confirmation for Chinese ambassador, he’s a good guy,” Mr. Messina said. “We looked at his profile in a general election and thought he would have been” a formidable candidate. Politico’s video of the remarks is here.
Mr. Huntsman’s candidacy never caught on. In 2011, he sent out a tweet affirming that he believed in evolution and trusted “scientists on global warming.”
“Call me crazy,” Mr. Huntsman said at the time.
But I don't think Huntsman would have fared any better. Remember, Mitt Romney's problem (or one of them) was that evangelical whites stayed home. Huntsman would have had the same problem, plus unlike Romney, he went out of his way to antagonize the base in order to get the middle. And in a moment of rare clarity, even Katrina Trinko at the National Review admits Huntsman was even less of a moderate than Mitt pretended to be:
It fits into the whole tea-party narrative to depict Huntsman as a moderate who was banished by the wild GOP. But that ignores that Huntsman was in some ways to the right of Mitt Romney (Utah’s health-care system relied on exchanges, not an individual mandate, and Huntsman came out for the Ryan plan, as I recall, long before Romney did).
Particularly on economic issues, Huntsman is a Paul Ryan Austerian. He would have had as hard a time capturing the center as Romney did, plus he would have come up even shorter on support from the base considering his stint as President Obama's Ambassador to China.
If anything, he has even less of a chance in 2016.