President Obama has refrained from taking shots at any of the Republican candidates as they entered the Presidential race. The only exception has been John Huntsman. Team Obama wasted no time attacking Huntsman’s economic plan. They also sent Dick Harpootlian, the South Carolina Democratic Party chair and a long-time insider Democrat flack, to mock Huntsman as a “former Obama administration official”. This should remind us all of a striking fact: the Obama administration’s appointment of Huntsman as ambassador to China was done with the express purpose of ensuring Huntsman couldn’t run for President in 2012.
So, why is Team Obama so afraid of John Huntsman? Granted, he has a star-studded resume, was considered a pretty good governor, and would bring instant foreign policy gravitas to a race against Obama. On the other hand, Huntsman is at around 1 percent in the polls, and is widely viewed as too moderate to win a Republican nomination in the tea party era. But all this fear from team Obama should lead us to give Huntsman a second look. In general, the things you’re opponent fears from you are things you want to at least seriously consider doing.
It’s also the only path Huntsman has to victory. The Huntsman campaign needs to take the “Obama is afraid of me” angle, and run with it hard. This is the only thing that can mitigate Huntsman’s previous service in the Obama administration (aside from a scathing insider indictment of the way Obama runs his administration, which seems unlikely given Huntsman’s “Mr. nice guy” approach). In actual fact, there isn’t a whole lot that Huntsman did as Ambassador to China which can be seen as overtly pro-administration, or partisan, and unlike a cabinet post, an ambassadorship to one of the most powerful countries in the world is hardly something one can turn down; the ambassador, after all, represents the country, not the President.
The details, however, will easily get lost, as competitors do everything they can to tie Huntsman to Obama. However, Huntsman can argue that Obama has been afraid of him since January 2009; that’s not something many other potential candidates can claim. And if it doesn’t put Huntsman’s name at the top of our list, it ought to at least make us start asking ourselves why Obama fears him so much?