Press secretary Tim Miller gives the answer, “Mitt Romney beat us,” and then goes on to explain the things Mitt Romney has done well. That’s fine. Mitt Romney probably has been a better candidate this time than in 2008, but the answer regarding Huntsman’s own campaign is far from sufficient.
It is probably too soon for a post-mortem from a member of the team, but at some point I would like to see one of them explain how it is that a successful governor with a strong record managed to be the ONLY candidate in the race who failed to get a turn in the spotlight. We have seen Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain earn serious consideration and high poll numbers. Santorum and Gingrich have both mounted threats to Romney, despite seemingly being finished as office-holders. And yet, Jon Huntsman, a man with a terrific résumé and a solid record, was scarcely able to beat the margin of error.
Why? I think the answer is that he gave off the wrong signals right from the beginning. Huntsman was asked about matters such as climate change and evolution. His answers gave the clear impression that he felt conservative voters have failed to comprehend the rationality and power of science, thus demonstrating that he apparently buys into the standard narrative of the conservative idiot. Voters will never choose the man who appears to hold them in contempt.
He could have held exactly the same opinions he has, but addressed the matter differently. For example, he could have said that he understands the evidence regarding climate change and thinks the primary question for non-scientists is what it all means. Much of the resistance regarding climate change arguments is not so much to the idea of it as to the question of what should be done. The wall begins to rise when the globo-catastrophists list their very expensive demands. Huntsman should have turned the question to those issues rather than making acceptance or denial of climate change the issue. With regard to evolution, Huntsman should have likewlse turned the question to the implications.
A second, though less significant answer, is that Huntsman missed his one big opportunity to make an impression on voters. After coming in third in New Hampshire and getting prime time air to give a speech, Huntsman failed to have any kind of compelling message ready. When Rick Santorum made his big splash in Iowa, he spoke without notes to massive effect. He was ready. Huntsman’s “ticket to ride” speech left his audience wanting more.