The Stump

Huntsman Sets Centrist Hearts Aflutter

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When I recently visited the spic-and-span offices of Americans Elect, the millionaire-funded initiative to get a bipartisan, online-nominated ticket on the presidential ballot next year, I asked the group's second in command, Elliot Ackerman, what he made of criticisms that the group could spoil Barack Obama's prospects. Ackerman, whose corporate-raider father Peter Ackerman founded the group, told me that someone had recently challenged him by saying, “‘Think how much this would hurt President Obama if Hillary Clinton ran with Jon Huntsman.’” Ackerman’s boyish face then broke into a grin. “Our reply was, ‘I don’t think that would hurt President Obama. I think that ticket will win.’”

Well, Ackerman (whose group has raised more than $20 million from an undisclosed list of big donors, and is well on its way to gaining 50-state ballot access) must be smiling even more broadly now. The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson asked Huntsman up front today about whether he had any plans of mounting an independent run if he doesn't get the Republican nomination, and Huntsman's denial was far from categorical.

Asked, “Is there any situation in which you would run for president as an independent?” Huntsman told The Boston Globe, “I don’t think so.”

Told that anything but a flat denial could perpetuate speculation about the possibility, Huntsman replied: “I’m a lifelong Republican. I’m running as a Republican, and I fully anticipate that that’s where we’re going to be.”

Now all they need is Hillary. She's flatly denied interest in any such thing, but Americans Elect's leadership team includes several top Hillary boosters from 2008 who could perhaps persuade her otherwise, including "Democratic" pollster Doug Schoen and Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, the heiress who went on a notorious anti-Obama rant after the 2008 primaries, dismissing him as an "elitist."

In any case, the movement is now officially underway -- one can all but hear the grass-tops rippling in the breeze.

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