The Case For Huntsman Involves A Lot Of Magical Thinking

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Ben Smith talks to Horizon PAC consultant Steve Goldberg about the "case for Huntsman." From the moment he jumped into a race at a time when the GOP base seemed predisposed to carving up moderate Republicans with steak knives, it's seemed pretty thin to me. However, as Goldberg explains it, I need to start thinking about this in terms of President Barack Obama's "perspective." See, if you do that, then Huntsman becomes a top-tier candidate and a major threat in the race. All through the power of imagination!

This channeling-of-Obama logic hangs mainly on a comparison with the rest of the GOP field:

The flavor of the month right now is Herman Cain. Calls to his office rarely get answered or followed up on. Book tour? Free advertising for pizza? Who knows? Right now he is going along for the media ride which probably won't last longer than a month or two before the press gets bored and starts closely examining his rhetoric.

Rick Perry? Fading fast. Bachman? Faded already. Santorum? Did he start yet?

Ron Paul, what can I say about Ron Paul? I guess I will just have to review his appearance in Sacha Baron Cohen's movie Brüno, which should say it all.

Newt? Bright guy, poor judgment. Anything new from him? No.

That narrows the playing field down to Huntsman and Romney.

From there, the thinking goes, Obama would have more "fun" going up against Romney, with all of his inauthenticity problems. And so, Huntsman becomes the "last man standing." And from Obama's "perspective" Huntsman is basically a wunderkind: he has "the right message for the country," "incredible foreign policy experience" and more business experience, and apparently Obama is writing all of this in his "diary."

Credit Huntsman for not running a book tour disguised as a campaign. But let's get some real talk going. I can see Goldberg's logic here: there have been numerous candidates auditioning for the role of "not-Romney" and they've more or less burned bright and burned out fast. Sure, Herman Cain could be the next to follow that path, and from there, someone else could get elevated. Fundamentals favor Perry, who can raise money and has neither a shoestring organization nor one that's slowly collapsing. However, the hope here, I gather, is that Huntsman gets a turn in that role.

But then you get "Santorum? Did he start yet?" Well, has Huntsman started yet? Is he besting Santorum in the polls? No? Yeah, I didn't think so. Let's give Santorum some credit: he's been at this longer than Huntsman, and unlike Huntsman, he's been excellent in the GOP debates -- while Huntsman makes lame quips, Santorum is articulate, aggressive, and resolute in making his case.

Now, if we're imagining things from Obama's perspective, does he fear Santorum more than Huntsman? Of course not. But the GOP nomination is not going to be determined by the conjurings of Obama's dream journal. It will be determined by the voters who participate in the GOP primaries. So far, they seem to be favorably predisposed to Santorum's politics -- they just don't want him to be president. But why would they opt for Huntsman, who they want to be president even less?

In terms of political speculation-as-opiate, Goldberg is pimping the pure and uncut stuff. But no one should take a word of that seriously.

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