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Obama's Campaign Manager: We Were Worried About Huntsman

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Jon Huntsman speaks to the media after announcing his bid for the presidency on June 21, 2011 in Jersey City, New Jersey. In a speech with the Statue of Liberty behind him, Huntsman, until recently the U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, emphasized his record as a two-term governor of Utah. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    Exactly one year ago, I wrote an article for Time Out Chicago explaining why Barack Obama would win a second term. One of my reasons: “Mitt Romney is a stiff.”

    “Do you really think Romney is going to be the nominee?” my editor asked.
    “The Republicans always nominate the guy who finished second last time,” I said. “It’s his turn.”
    After Obama beat Romney, I asked the editor whether she remembered the conversation.
    “I sure do!” she said. “I just couldn’t see how such a robot would be the nominee. Jon Huntsman would have made for a better race, but it all worked out in the end!”
    It turns out she wasn’t the only one who thought Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, would have been the best candidate. Obama for America thought so, too. At a post-election event in Washington, D.C.,
    Jim Messina said Huntsman’s appeal to moderate voters could have dug into the Democratic president’s margin with that swath of Americans, whom Obama handily took to win a second term.
    “We were honest about our concerns about Huntsman,” Messina said at an event sponsored by Politico. “I think Huntsman [as Republican nominee] would have been a tough general election campaign.”
    Senior Obama adviser David Plouffe had expressed such concern even before Utah’s former governor launched his failed presidential bid, with one journalist noting that a Huntsman candidacy made Plouffe a “wee bit queasy.”  
    Huntsman finished third in the New Hampshire primary, the only election he seriously contested, behind Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who’s too much of right-wing kook even for the Republican Party to nominate. So maybe there’s hope for 2016.

     

    This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.