A day after Mitt Romney cemented his status as 2012 Republican frontrunner with a solid performance in Monday's New Hampshire debate, Jon Huntsman announced that he, too, will join the race. Huntsman, a former governor of Utah and, until April, President Obama's ambassador to China, will officially launch his campaign on June 21. He is also one of three GOP candidates that Obama's campaign is keeping a wary eye on, along with Romney and Tim Pawlenty. But with Romney comfortably leading the field, does the GOP race really have room for another moderate, Mormon businessman-politician?
Huntsman may be more electable than Mitt: Romney certainly "will not welcome the competition from another sensible besuited Mormon," says Matthew Bishop at The Economist. But there are subtle differences that could help Huntsman win over a GOP base "struggling to decide which it hates most — being a Mormon or being sensible." He has a son in the Navy and an adopted daughter from China. Plus, Huntsman doesn't seem too tied to what he calls his "Mormon heritage," which could be critical if he wants to win over evangelical Christians.
"In the hunt"
But he's too moderate for today's GOP: Huntsman's a more impressive figure than Romney, and a bigger threat to Obama, says Chas Carey at The Faster Times. But if you add up his working for Obama, his moderate stances on climate change and same-sex unions, and his back-of-the-pack poll numbers, he just "doesn’t look like the kind of Obama-bashing, magically-tax-cut-your-way-to-5%-growth 'centrist frontrunner' the mainstream Republican Party in the Tea Party age seems to crave."
"Jon Huntsman joins the GOP presidential field. Can he win?"
His 2012 run is really all about 2016, anyway: Huntsman isn't running to win as much as he's gunning for Romney to lose, says Jonathan Chait at The New Republic. Huntsman knows the two appeal to the same "limited slice of the party base." If he can peel enough Romney voters away so that an unelectable right-winger wins the nomination, but loses to Obama, Huntsman could have the name recognition, stature, and lack of flip-flopping to be the 2016 establishment candidate.
"Huntsman to crowd Romney's turf"