Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign received a major boost on Thursday evening when the former Utah governor received the endorsement of the Boston Globe, the most influential paper in New Hampshire.
Huntsman announced the endorsement during a campaign appearance on Thursday night and it stands to reason that it will be a common feature of his stump speech as the campaign leads up to Tuesday's vote. The actual substance of the endorsement may not make conservative hearts swoon -- focused, as it is, on Huntsman's cooperation with the Obama administration -- but in the Granite State, where independents can vote in the Republican primary, it's a big time coup.
When the national economy fell into recession, some Republican governors made a show of rejecting federal stimulus money on ideological grounds; sensibly, Huntsman took the money. While he endorsed the notion of a federal stimulus, he also offered a credible critique of the way the Democratic Congress had structured the plan. Then, when Obama offered him the post of ambassador to China, Huntsman accepted. Other Republicans, such as New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg, couldn’t bring themselves to accept entreaties from a Democratic president. Huntsman did. It attests to his sincerity when he vows to lead in a bipartisan spirit.
Perhaps equally important, however, is the explanation the editorial page gave for skipping over the governor it once covered: Mitt Romney.
Without personal experience to guide him, Romney is catering to the most vocal constituencies in the national-security wing of the GOP. As in other areas, such as his Robert Bork-led advisory panel on judicial policies, Romney’s ultimate intentions aren’t clear. Is this for real? Both his supporters and detractors suspect that behind the conservative scaffolding is a data-driven moderate who will make practical compromises. But the way Romney has run his campaign, it’s impossible to tell.
Nonetheless, there is a widespread belief that Romney’s campaign, like a well-designed corporate strategy, is bound for success. But even if Romney emerges as the nominee, it matters how he gets there. Already, the religious right, represented by Rick Santorum, and Tea Party activists, represented by Ron Paul, have pushed Romney in unwanted directions. In New Hampshire, Republican and independent voters have a chance, through Huntsman, to show him a sturdier model. Jon Huntsman would be a better president. But if he fails, he could still make Romney a better candidate.