Jon Huntsman’s last, best shot

at 06:30 AM ET, 08/31/2011


Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman will role out his jobs plan on Wednesday in New Hampshire. (AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE LOPEZ)
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman will debut his jobs plan later today in New Hampshire, his latest attempt to push his way into the conversation for the Republican presidential nomination.

In recent weeks, Huntsman has drawn headlines for his willingness to challenge his Republican opponents for their alleged extremism on issues like climate change — positions that he argues makes them unelectable against President Obama.

While it’s far from clear whether Huntsman’s call for moderation in tone and policy is ultimately a successful strategy in a Republican primary, it has won him some attention. And now he and his political team are hoping to capi­tal­ize on being the first candidate in the race with a fully-fleshed out jobs plan.

“We need American entrepreneurs not only thinking of products like the iPhone or Segway; we need American workers building those products,” Huntsman will say, according to excerpted remarks. “It’s time for ‘Made in America’ to mean something again.”

The roll-out of Huntsman’s jobs plan will come six days before former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is expected to offer his own vision for jumpstarting the jobs market and a week (or so) before President Obama does the same. (Obama and his political team have said he will make a major jobs speech after Labor Day but haven’t specified a date for the address yet.) It also comes one week to the day before the Sept. 7 debate sponsored by NBC and Politico at the Reagan Library in California.

That confluence of events makes clear that what the Huntsman team is aiming for is to propel him into the national debate over jobs alongside Romney and Obama, as well as ensure that he is a central player in next week’s presidential debate.

It’s a smart strategy, particularly given the difficulties Huntsman has experienced in trying to break through in the race to date.

The early stages of Huntsman’s campaign were typified by disorganization and amateur mistakes (his own name was spelled wrong in the media credentials issued at his announcement speech) that seemed to indicate an operation not ready for primetime.

As the summer wore on, Huntsman saw Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry dominate media coverage and, in the Iowa debate that preceded the Ames Straw Poll earlier this month, Huntsman felt like he was barely there.

Since then, however, he and his team have made good on their promise to be more aggressive, and it has won him a goodly amount of press coverage — if not all that many actual votes. (A new CNN poll released Tuesday showed Huntsman at 1 percent in a 2012 ballot test, down from 4 percent in a survey conducted earlier this month.)

The truth of the matter is that if Huntsman doesn’t start showing some signs of poll movement — nationally but more importantly in New Hampshire — it’s hard to see him as a relevant player in the race going forward.

He and his political team are well aware of that fact. It’s why Huntsman is spending the next five days in New Hampshire and why he almost certainly will come out very aggressively at next week’s debate. (It’s also why Huntsman television ads may start airing in the Granite State sometime soon after that.)

Today is the start of Huntsman’s last, best shot to vault himself into viability. He needs to lead on the jobs issue and find other ways to convince still-skeptical GOP primary voters that he is one of them. And he needs to do it fast.

Palin to N.H. tea party rally: She’s showing up again.

Sarah Palin, who has made a habit of showing up at opportune times in the GOP presidential race, will appear at a Tea Party Express rally in Manchester, N.H., on Labor Day.

It’s the day after the event that Romney will appear at in Concord, and reinforces Palin’s desire to be a part of the conversation even as she hasn’t indicated whether she will run for president.

Palin previously showed up in Iowa on the eve of the Ames Straw Poll, and she was in New Hampshire at the same time Romney launched his campaign there earlier this year.

The appearance will come after Palin speaks at another tea party rally this weekend in Iowa.

Romney and the Perry effect: It seems Perry has brought Romney out of his shell (a.k.a. the Mittness Protection Program).

On Tuesday alone, Romney made three moves that could be interpreted as shifts in his campaign strategy.

First, he lobbed the following during a visit to Perry’s home state: “Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don’t know how to get us out.” Given Perry’s two-plus decades in statewide office, it’s not hard to connect the dots.

Then, it was announced that Romney would attend the Tea Party Express rally — apparently his first appearance at such a tea party event.

The Democratic National Committee certainly noticed, highlighting the two pieces of news using the tried and true shot-chaser press release.

Then, at the end of the day, the Post’s Jennifer Rubin reported that Romney, who previously said he wouldn’t be at Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Labor Day rally, would now be in attendance. DeMint, of course, is a tea party favorite.

So far, it’s anecdotal evidence, but for a candidate who has largely went about his business since Perry got in the race, it’s definitely worth watching.

Perry adviser pumps up fundraising: A top Perry adviser says the candidate’s fundraising is going swimmingly, and it could exceed what the last Texas governor to run for president was able to raise.

Henry Barbour told iWatch News on Tuesday that all indications are that Perry “will be able to perform at a similar level, if not exceed, what Bush did in 2000 and McCain did in 2008. It’s impressive.”

George W. Bush raised $30 million in the second quarter of 1999 and $20 million in the third quarter. For the whole campaign, he pulled in nearly $200 million.

If Perry is able to equal Bush, he would be on a better pace than Romney was in his first quarter of fundraising. Romney raised more than $18 million for the second quarter.

Democratic lawmaker makes racially charged remark about tea party: Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) says in audio released by a conservative media outlet that tea party members of Congress want to see African-Americans “hanging on a tree.”

The remark was made at a town hall organized by the Congressional Black Caucus last week.

Carson’s office confirmed the remarks to former Deputy Fix Felicia Sonmez and isn’t backing down.

The comments from a member of the CBC represent the latest salvo in long-simmering tensions between the tea party and the CBC, some of whose members have accused the tea party of racism.

Perry praised Clinton for HillaryCare: The Daily Caller has dug up a letter from when Perry was state Agriculture Commissioner in which he praises then-First Lady Hillary Clinton for her health care proposal.

“I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable,” Perry wrote.

Perry’s campaign said the letter was merely meant to ask her to look out for rural Americans and was sent before the health care reform was fully crafted.

Fixbits:

Former Hono­lulu mayor Mufi Hannemann (D) has joined the race for Senate candidate Rep. Mazie Hirono’s (D-Hawaii) open House seat.

Rick Santorum compares Perry to Obama and questions his conservatism.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) says he has no plans to seek reelection in 2016.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning’s GOP Senate primary opponents are now going after him for purchasing a home with two executives whose case he had intervened in.

Georgia Republicans’ redistricting bill,which endangers Rep. John Barrow (D) and creates a new Republican district, works its way through the state legislature.

American University professor Allan Lichtman, known for predicting the winner of presidential races, says Obama will win reelection.

Must-reads:

Post-9/11 politics of Rudy Giuliani” — Beth Fouhy, AP

Perry: no stimulus if he’s elected” — AP

Warren not set to announce a run, but she’s ready for a fight” Noah Bierman and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe

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