Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Sorry, one last Jon Huntsman post and then I'll stop.

I'm over at Balloon Juice (this week only), and I see that Anne Laurie thinks Huntsman is really running to be the 2016 GOP nominee. A lot of people believe that, obviously.

I don't, though -- at least I don't think the idea of the Huntsman candidacy was cooked up with 2016 in mind. We know the origin story, as told by Matt Bai and others: the Huntsman campaign was the brainchild of John Weaver, who worked for John McCain in 2000 when McCain was still a "maverick," then joined the '08 McCain campaign but later left it, grumbling that McCain's had turned too far to the right. So it seems to me that the guy who really wants it -- really wants a "centrist"/"maverick" to win it all -- is John Weaver. And if that's the case, I bet he doesn't really want it five years in the future -- he wants it now. The fact that he's a leukemia survivor makes that seem more likely.


I first met Weaver ... aboard John McCain's Straight Talk Express in 2000.... After the campaign, Weaver's journey became downright weird. Embittered by George W. Bush's victory and shut out in Rove's Washington, he moved to New York and shocked old friends by agreeing to help some Democrats (including the party’s leadership in the House and Senate).... Weaver soon had bigger problems; he had leukemia, which is now in remission.... Weaver reinsinuated himself into McCain’s inner circle for a time in 2007. But he left the struggling campaign that summer.... Weaver ... had problems with the strategic direction of McCain's second campaign, the hard and bumpy lurch to the right....

Political strategists are forever in search of the next big thing, some undiscovered talent who might someday be enshrined in marble — or at least make them household names the way Bush did for Rove or the way Obama did for David Axelrod. It was during his second go-around with McCain that Weaver met Governor Huntsman....

So here's Weaver: In 2000 he backs McCain, whom he sees as an inspiring non-ideologue, and the campaign loses as a result of Rovian skulduggery. Eight years later, McCain tacks right -- and loses. Weaver must be thinking: It's not my idea that's wrong, it's just that it's never been tested in the right circumstances. Someday -- someday! -- if all the ducks line up in a row, surely it has to work.

I think Weaver just can't believe that a "centrist" isn't going to win the GOP nomination eventually (and then maverick his way to the White House). It's what the people want!

Except he can't believe that it's not what Republicans want. For a generation there's been talk of Great Centrist Hopes in the party -- yet nothing ever pans out. Remember the talk about Colin Powell as the nominee in '96? Remember chatter about Christie Whitman? One right-wing pundit here in New York used to regularly predict that the next GOP nominee would be pro-gay, pro-choice Massachusetts governor William Weld (as it turned out, Weld couldn't even get approved by a Senate his own party controlled when Bill Clinton named him an ambassador).

Weaver really just may not be able to grasp that the deck is stacked against him. It reminds me of one of those hard-luck rock and roll stories in which a band never gets a break, but the members keep thinking the karma's going to balance out eventually, even as they turn 40, 45, 50.... It reminds me of the heart-tugging heavy metal documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil.

I think Weaver thinks his break is coming now. If so, poor dumb bastard.

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