Jonathan Chait

Huntsman To Crowd Romney's Turf

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Chuck Todd notes that Jon Huntsman's campaign essentially plans to follow Mitt Romney everywhere and compete for the same voters. That sounds like a strange way to win the 2012 nomination, given that he and Romney have such a similar profile and both appeal to a limited slice of the party base. But it's perfectly consistent with my view that Huntsman is playing for 2016. He needs to use this campaign to raise his name recognition and make himself acceptable to the party base without acquiring a reputation as a flip-flopper. Then, if the nominee loses in the general election, the party might be looking to move to the center enough that Huntsman could become the establishment choice.

A key part of this strategy requires Romney losing the primary. If Romney wins the nomination, Huntsman is in trouble -- Republicans won't want to nominate another mainstream Mormon technocrat in 2016 after having lost with one in 2012. (And obviously, if Romney wins, Huntsman can't run in 2016, either.) Thus dividing up the Romney constituency and knocking him out becomes Huntsman's secondary goal of the campaign cycle.

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