Huntsman is now the Republican darling of the liberal press. The truth is his speech before the Statue of Liberty (which echoed Reagan in terms of location) was shallow and boring (and so didn't echo Reagan in any other way). It's been noticed that he's sort of McCain without the heroism: Playing to the press, only selectively Republican (and with a certain snobbish disdain for the Republican base), and too classy to attack Obama. It was the heroism, in part, that propelled McCain to his party's nomination; it was also lots of luck. McCain was exactly the wrong sort of candidate to succeed against Obama in the wake of the economic crisis. His “honorable” strategy would even be lamer against Obama the incumbent.
To be fair: Unlike McCain, Huntsman has a fairly impressive record of executive competence, and he certainly didn't go all rogue representing our country in China.
Some pundits say that Huntsman has a chance. Those Republicans most energized want a candidate who's consistently principled, who's all about confronting the president's Progressivism with a detailed vision of a new birth of individual liberty. Huntsman might have been boring on purpose in his Statue speech to make crystal clear he ain't that guy.
But in another sense, the Republicans are like the Democrats in 2008. Most of all they want to win, and in the end they might sacrifice some principle for a victory. Lots of them at least half-way know that an ideological showdown might benefit the president. Sure, people are starting to get scared of the mega-debt, and they don't trust the president on that front. They don't really want the new birth of big government that's Obamacare. But a big reason they're getting paranoid about the debt is that they're afraid for their present safety net, for Social Security, Medicare, in many cases their pensions, etc.
The Democrats will play that fear factor ably against the Republicans, and voters might well forget it's not like the Democrats really know how to deal with the hugely alarming Congressional Budget Office Report on the all-consuming debt.
So it could be the Republicans' best chance is with a moderately conservative, hugely competent type who can be trusted to manage the inevitable shrinking of our entitlement regime.
That thought points in the direction of Huntsman and Romne--both highly competent, moderate, prudent to the point of being flip-floppy guys. Everyone knows Huntsman isn't really better than Romney, but:
He has less baggage and won't be pummeled as much for being a Mormon. One good thing about his campaign is the mainstream media is now finding good things to say about being a Mormon. The two years of mission experience in Taiwan, for example, opened Huntsman to the world and got him ready to become quite the expert on all things Chinese (an undoubted big asset for any president in the foreseeable future). So we're being reminded that the Mormon religion, although founded in America, has knocked itself out trying to go global and has experienced some real success. And Huntsman has sent out signals that he's less Mormon, somehow, than Romney (he's not married to one, for example).
Having faithfully given the case for Huntsman, here's the truth: A victory against Obama will have been fought on the two fronts of COMPETENCE and IDEOLOGY. On the level of articulate principle, Huntsman is an empty (although very nice) suit. In any case, Huntsman could conceivably hang in there during the primary winnowing process for a while and end up the only surviving candidate against some conservative. At that point he would be blown away by voters who are enthusiastically Republican.
These facts explain why (thanks to George Will and may others) the Republican candidate of the week is Rick Perry.