Jon Huntsman is out, and endorsing Mitt Romney. There’s no real effect on the race here, because this is a thoroughly expected development; the weird thing would have been if Huntsman had tried to continue on after getting 5% or less in South Carolina.

I’d made the point before that Huntsman reminded me of Bruce Babbitt 1988 — both were loved by the press, respected but not supported by party actors, and ignored by voters. Both attempted the Big Campaign Strategy of being funny in debates, despite neither actually displaying any actual comic ability at all. But Huntsman also reminds me of someone like Orrin Hatch, Richard Lugar, Arlen Specter, or Paul Laxalt, people who seemed to sort of have the right qualifications on paper but in fact were just totally out of their league as presidential candidates, at least the way they were going about doing it. More than one person has speculated that Huntsman’s campaign was more than anything a consultant-driven enterprise, and while it’s always hard to tell from the outside, that fits perfectly with everything I’ve seen. But it also fits the profile of a politician who has always succeeded at lower levels and just completely misunderstood the gap between a statewide election in Utah and a national campaign.

At any rate, you don’t get a party’s nomination by deliberately annoying most of the party’s groups.

My other comment here is that I’m kicking myself for not rewriting and updating the post I wrote about how just because Rick Perry said on the day after Iowa that he was staying in through South Carolina didn’t necessarily mean that he was really going to stay in through Iowa. As it happened, Perry did stick around (at least so far), but similar claims by Huntsman immediately after New Hampshire turned out to be phony. Not that there’s anything wrong with them doing so, but it’s only natural that candidates will claim that they’re in it for good right up until the point that they fold, and so observers should give very minimal value to any such claim.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.