January 12, 2012

It’s pretty tough to make a Beatles song sound uncool.

But former Utah governor Jon Huntsman did just that when he channeled the Fab Four following his disappointing finish in the New Hampshire presidential primary on Tuesday.

“I’d say third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen,” Huntsman said to his supporters. “Hello, South Carolina!” Um, awkward.

Huntsman, who served as the Obama administration’s ambassador to China before returning home last year to run for the GOP nomination, had staked his campaign on a surprisingly strong showing in the Granite State.

He visited New Hampshire more than 150 times — nearly double the number of pilgrimages any of his rivals made — and skipped the Iowa caucuses entirely. “They pick corn in Iowa,” Huntsman said in late December. “They actually pick presidents here in New Hampshire.” (On a related note, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with whom Huntsman is, well, not close,won Tuesday’s vote convincingly.)

Huntsman’s assertion that his third-place showing — behind Romney and libertarian-aligned Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) — validated his campaign not only rang hollow but also evoked memories of the spin offered by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (then a Democrat) after his fifth-place finish in New Hampshire in 2004. “We are in a three-way split decision for third place,” Lieberman said. “The people of New Hampshire put me in the ring, and that’s where we’re going to stay.” Again, awkward.

Polling in South Carolina suggests that Huntsman rates in the single digits when it comes to support in the state’s Jan. 21 primary. Things can change. But they probably won’t.

Jon Huntsman, for thinking your hard day’s night amounted to a ticket to ride, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

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