How Huntsman could win 

At the outset of this post, let me say I don't think former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will be the Republican nominee. But a lot of people have been asking why on Earth he'd even bother, given his prospects. Nobody can get inside any politician's head to know what they're really thinking, but here's the closest thing I can imagine as a path to the nomination for Huntsman.

Right now, the field is incredibly unsettled. Mitt Romney is the closest thing to a frontrunner, yet his actual record was too liberal to beat John McCain in 2008, and now the base has only turned more forcefully against his signature legislative achivement -- the Massachusetts health care plan. He's been lucky, though, because the field consists of Tim Pawlenty and a group of candidates that fill various niches but are unlikely to win the nomination.

Let's say Pawlenty never takes off, and one of the niche candidates wins Iowa. Suddenly, Republicans who still hate Romney, but don't see a Herman Cain or Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., as a plausible candidate, may start to look elsewhere. So enter Huntsman. He'll spend most of his time concentrating on New Hampshire and South Carolina. He'll try to emphasize the conservative aspects of his record, which Daniel Allott outlined here, and turn it into a race between him and Romney. If he can do well in New Hampshire where independents vote, he has a chance in South Carolina, where Romney finished fourth in 2008. He's already picked up the endorsement of Mike Huckabee's 2008 South Carolina campaign chairman. Then he can fight on, hoping to cobble together a coalition of  moderates and anti-Romney voters who, after giving Huntsman a second look, see him as the lesser of two evils.

Do I think this is a realistic path to the nomination? No. But if you were a former governor with presidential ambitions, might this seem plausible enough to give it a shot? In Huntsman's case, apparently so.

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Philip Klein

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