Jon Huntsman's bid for the Republican presidential nomination is a hot topic among reporters and commentators, in part because it's so unusual. Huntsman is a moderate, civil-sounding Republican in uncivil, polarized times. Moreover, he would be running for president against his former boss, Barack Obama, who made the former Utah governor his ambassador to China. And yet, despite the uniqueness of Huntsman's run, the chattering class cannot resist equating Huntsman with a number of other politicians. Here's a rundown of supposed Huntsman precedents:
1. John McCain
Huntsman wants you to think he's a motorcycle-riding road demon, says Michelle Malkin at National Review. But "underneath the Steve McQueen costumery, this made-for-cable-TV Moderate Speed Racer is a creaky old John McCain on Wheels." Like McCain 1.0, "McHuntsman" is a pro-cap-and-trade, amnesty-loving, entitlement-expanding, "big-spending accommodationist" whose main constituency is "swooning reporters" and "the Democratic elite." So far, his "media paramours" outnumber actual Republicans at his events.
2. Gen. Wesley Clark
The most "obvious parallel" is Clark, the former NATO allied commander who "pole-vaulted into the 2004 Democratic race based on elite dissatisfaction with the other contenders," says Walter Shapiro at The New Republic. Both of them look good on paper — Clark a decorated general, Huntsman "the only Republican in the race with serious foreign-policy experience" — but the comparison shouldn't cheer Obama's former China ambassador: Clark, after all, "never found a way to offer voters more than his star-spangled resume."
3. Ronald Reagan
The comparison Huntsman is clearly hoping to elicit is with the Gipper, says Paul Bentley at the Daily Mail. He was a staffer in the Reagan White House, has a picture of himself and the former president on his Facebook page, and "made his announcement at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, the same historic location used by Reagan to launch his 1980 bid."
4. John F. Kennedy
Huntsman is "at pains to follow in Ronald Reagan's footsteps," but he seems more like one of the American Left's icons, says Darrell Delamaide at MarketWatch. Let's see: "Glamourous wife," the "easy self-confidence — insouciance, even — that comes with inherited wealth and privilege," and a great head of hair... The only thing keeping Hunstman from being the "Republican version of John F. Kennedy" is "the humor and the vigor" that made JFK — and Reagan, for that matter — such popular candidates.
5. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
There's really only one politician who truly matches Huntsman's trajectory, says Steve Kornacki at Salon. Lodge, another moderate Republican, was JFK's ambassador to South Vietnam, but then launched "a write-in campaign that produced a surprise victory in the '64 New Hampshire primary" for the Republican nomination. Of course, Lodge's "sort-of campaign fizzled" pretty quickly. In 2012, the "taint of Obama-ism" will probably end Huntsman's campaign just as fast — or faster.