No, Jon Huntsman won’t be the VP candidate, either. There’s been a lot of speculation that Jon Huntsman isn’t really running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination; he’s either running for 2016, or for the VP slot.
Reality check: The 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee is not going to be Huntsman. He or she is going to be a solid conservative.
Suppose the nominee is a mainstream conservative — Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or Rick Perry. The latter two will have solid support from the overlapping constituencies of Tea Partiers and social conservatives, to be sure. But none of them is likely to spark the enthusiasm of the insurgent candidates of 2010 – winning Senate candidates such as Marco Rubio Ron Johnson, and Mike Lee, or losers including Joe Miller and Christine O’Donnell. The kind of enthusiasm, that is, that Sarah Palin channeled in 2008. That means that any of those mainstream politicians, no matter how far they have to move to the right on policy positions in order to capture the nomination, will still be dealing with a party base that will at best be settling. They’re going to have to stay safely conservative on the bottom of the ticket if they don’t want a serious internal revolt on their hands.
If the nominee is an insurgent conservative — Palin herself, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, or one of the even less likely winners — that enthusiasm won’t be a problem. But neither will any kind of realistic sense of the American electorate. Each of those candidates would have won against all odds, and against the Republican establishment. It’s highly unlikely that any of them would then turn and pick, not just an establishment figure (as they would see it), but a moderate on the issues to boot. Instead, one of these nominees, and her supporters, would take the shocking upset win as confirmation that Republicans do best when doubling down on what everyone else sees as the crazy.
Either way, no one is going to want to risk annoying important Republican-aligned groups by adding someone to the ticket who hasn’t stayed loyal on key conservative issues from climate to health care to marriage. The only way someone like that can get on a Republican ticket is by changing the party, by winning primaries and caucuses. It won’t happen by invitation. Huntsman won’t be the Veep candidate.