What to make of Jon Huntsman's candidacy?
I'm intrigued. Politically, I actually think his service in China will be more of an asset than a liability. He could frame it the way Petraeus might have described his service under President Obama. Even his civil unions stance isn't the liability it would have been in 2008 (my sense is that most in the party realize the country has turned a corner in that regard). Compared to Romney, he is less plugged in to the Church of LDS (those who know Mormons say Huntsman is like the University of Utah and Romney is BYU) and perceived as more down to earth. Like Romney, he's palatable to Republicans who are embarrassed by (but occasionally sympathetic to) the Tea Party crowd. Style-wise, I could see him getting along with the rust-belt Saul Anuzis set more easily than Mitt Romney has and I can imagine him doing much better in NH than T-Paw.
He doesn't have a specific affiliation with any of the major primary constituencies, but this issue could be mitigated if he deploys his wealth to shore up influential supporters, to build a large ground operation and "reassure" the chattering class of his viability.
Also consider who he's up against. I still consider Mitt the frontrunner, but he does have some major liabilities. As a candidate, Pawlenty looks okay on paper but there is the "yawn factor." If he was going to be the belle of the ball, I think more establishment figures would have signed on with him by now (Dole, McCain and Bush all attracted big name campaign talent early on).
Of course, there's a lot to be seen. Huntsman certainly hasn't gotten the scrutiny that others have. You know--not that it's relevant--but I'd be interested to hear how just far his youthful rebellion went: was it like rebellious for Salt Lake City or rebellious for, say, anywhere else?
If you don't think Huntsman has a natural constituency, consider George Pataki, who (shockingly) might throw his hat in the ring!
How long will it be before we get a fawning Huntsman profile from David Brooks? A week? A month?