Jon Huntsman ended his longshot candidacy with his reputation and dignity still intact, an accomplishment some of his GOP competitors for the 2012 presidency will not attain.
As a result, the former Utah governor is positioned to try again the next time multiple Republicans contend for the presidency. That will either occur in 2016, or 2020 if President Obama is defeated this year. Some observers contend that Huntsman's brief run this year was always designed as an opportunity to present himself to Americans as a future presidential candidate. How else to understand's Huntsman's deliberate strategy of presenting himself to GOP caucus and primary voters as a self-described "moderate" in an era of Tea Partyish politicking?
But what really harmed Huntsman's chances was that he seemed to be the preferred Republican presidential candidate for people who don't often vote for Republicans. That is a voter bloc better wooed after a Republican has secured the party's nomination, not beforehand.
In fact, much of Huntsman's campaign was surreal. Exit poll results in New Hampshire, where he finished third with 17 percent of the vote, indicated that more than half of his voters described themselves as satisfied with President Obama's job performance. His campaign crowds were largely devoid of the partisan passion that is the norm.
Jon Huntsman was an excellent governor of our state. A fiscal conservative, Utah's budget under his tenure was the envy of the nation. His sensible stances on many social issues, attractive family, and foreign policy experience as U.S. ambassador to China comprised an impressive presidential resume. His laid back Mormonism presented a potentially soothing contrast to frontrunner Mitt Romney's button-up Mormonism.
But his candidacy simply didn't click. In fact, the affable Huntsman sometimes described himself as the "margin-of-error candidate." In his concession speech on Monday, where he endorsed Romney, he made a plea for civility in politics. If he makes another run for the presidency, it will have to be in an era where red meat politics, with strong tea, is not the preferred course.