Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, pledging that he won't hurl mud at his GOP rivals or at President Obama and that he'll keep his campaign "on the high road." "I respect my fellow candidates," said Huntsman, who was Obama's ambassador in China until this spring, "and I respect the president of the United States." But at a time when Republicans are increasingly furious with Obama, does a "good guy" candidate stand a chance?
In a word, no: "I wish Huntsman luck in this noble pursuit," says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, "but the high road almost always leads to political oblivion." Huntsman's appeal — his civility and humanity — "are the very qualities our political system seems to abhor." If Huntsman doesn't learn how to be mean soon, "he will join other decent men — Richard Lugar, Orrin Hatch — whose presidential campaigns were quickly forgotten."
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This might be the year a nice guy could win: "In any other presidential cycle, a candidate with such a soft-shoe approach — especially going up against the crowd-pleasing oratory of Barack Obama — would not go far," says Maggie Haberman at Politico. But when the frontrunner is the "less-than-sizzling" Mitt Romney, Huntsman has a rare window of opportunity. Frustrated voters disappointed with how the country has fared since 2008 might like Huntsman's reassuringly "mellow" message.
"Jon Huntsman's mellow 2012 announcement has a window"
To win, Huntsman will have to fight: Huntsman clearly sought Ronald Reagan comparisons by launching his campaign in front of the Statue of Liberty, as Reagan did in 1980, say Craig Shirley and Bill Pascoe at The Daily Caller. Reagan was dignified, but he didn't try "to get favorable press for his 'Mr. Nice Guy' approach to campaigns." He "threw uppercut after uppercut at Jimmy Carter," and stood up for conservative views. That's how you win elections.
"Jon Huntsman is no Ronald Reagan"
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