“I’m Jon Huntsman, and I am humbled,” said the good guy candidate when he took the stage. This was a far cry from Mitt Romney’s pitch: I can beat Obama, who is terrible. Or Tim Pawlenty’s pitch: I am honest and conservative. Or Newt Gingrich’s pitch: My mind is a marvel.
But Jon Huntsman is launching a different kind of campaign as a different kind of candidate. In the video that ran for spectators in Liberty State Park before his announcement, the voice over intoned: “Decent, calm, wise, firm, disciplined.” In 2007, Barack Obama’s big idea was that the nation wanted something different. Huntsman’s big idea is that America wants something more reasonable.
“I respect my fellow candidates, and I respect the President of the United States,” Huntsman said, in his only direct mention of his hoped-for-opponent, and former employer, Barack Obama. “For the sake of the younger generation it concerns me that civility humanity and respect are sometimes lost in our interactions as Americans,” Huntsman continued. “We are a great country because we are a good country. We will conduct this campaign on the high road.”
Outdoor announcements are hazardous events, and waterfront announcements near Manhattan more so. With the back of the Statue of Liberty framed behind him, Huntsman’s hair blew up from behind, and the noise of a helicopter seeped into his microphone. But this was not a high-impact speech anyway. It had the tone of a library reading. He spoke of the West, where the “view of America is limitless, with lots of blue sky.” He offered bland political truisms, like “What we need now is leadership that trusts in our strength” and “We must make hard decisions that are necessary to avert disaster” and “Our problems are no bigger than our opportunities.”
He hinted at wanting an exit from the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. “We must manage the end of these conflicts without repeating past mistakes,” he said. He praised the greatest generation of World War II, and predicted another generation of great Americans in the near future.
About 80 percent of the speech could have been spoken by Obama himself without anyone blinking an eye. To put it mildly, this does distinguish him from the rest of the Republican field. Huntsman is not just another candidate running for president in 2012. He is a Republican candidate running for a different sort of Republican voter in 2012, not the red meat, mad as hell, beat Obama, purity boosters. He wants to turn out the exhausted middle of the road type, someone who does not see the answer in swinging the political pendulum as much as getting rid of the pendulum all together.
For this it can be said that, at minimum, Huntsman will make the primary process a bit more interesting.