Your intrepid blogger got himself up out of his cubicle and went to
see GOP Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman yesterday at the Memorial
Union Building at the University Near Here.
Not that Huntsman has much of a shot: Only one poll
this year has shown Huntsman out of the single digits in New Hampshire.
gives him only a 2.7% chance at winning the GOP nomination, behind Mitt,
Rick, Herman, and even Newt. (On the other hand, he's doing far better
than Pun Salad's own choice, Gary Johnson. Who doesn't typically even
show up in polls, and Intrade has at 0.4%.)
But still: this is New Hampshire, the primary campaign is
increasing its volume, and, as Yogi Berra noted, you can observe a lot
by just watching. So I did.
Huntsman spoke in the Strafford Room, which is not the largest room
in the MUB. It was crowded, though. He was introduced by the UNH College
Republicans' president, who claimed out that Huntsman was running "on
his record, not away from it." This was a pretty obvious zing at
Mitt Romney, but it was indirect, and it was
the only one. Huntsman didn't engage in that
himself; in fact he didn't mention the other GOP candidates at all,
and his criticisms were all aimed at Democrats, their policies, and
Huntsman's speech was actually kind of a big deal: it was the official
rollout of his energy policy. (Here's the transcript
of his prepared remarks.) Summary: increase domestic production of
energy; break oil's "monopoly" as a transportation fuel; spur innovation
and research into alternative energy technologies and delivery methods.
There are a number of reasons why a conservative/libertarian
voter like me might like
Huntsman. His proposed tax reform is pretty good. (But not great:
Landsburg for a compare-n-contrast.)
He's an unabashed advocate of free trade. He wants to get
rid of Obamacare, Dodd/Frank, and Sarbanes/Oxley. He wants
to "rein in" many aspects of the regulatory state: EPA, FDA,
NRLB, etc. He advocates privatizing Fannie and Freddie.
He pledges to "eliminate every subsidy for energy companies".
And (although this didn't come up in the speech) he's
But there are false notes. He wrapped his speech around the
overall theme of "energy independence," which irritates
my libertarian side. Even though he's a free trader in other areas,
he lets the protectionist rhetoric fly in the energy sector.
And it's unclear how much corporate welfare might fit under
the "energy independence" banner. (He pledged to fund a lot
of "basic research"
which, at a research university, might count as pandering.)
Here's Huntsman's problem: if I had to attach a single adjective to
his style, it would be: boring.
I'm not a fan of the stem-winding/podium-pounding/rabble-rousing
speaking style, but Huntsman approached the other extreme. He was not
as flat as Kansas, but almost.
He tried to make one joke: it got a few chuckles from
people trying to be polite. His speech had no detectable
applause lines (and the audience obliged by not applauding until the
I went to see Steve Forbes in '96. Reader, Huntsman makes Steve Forbes
look like Jesse Jackson.
Huntsman took a few questions from the audience after the speech. The first
one was from a nice Durham lady; she noted that her power had been out
for days, that it seemed to have gone out a lot over the past few years,
and what was Huntsman's energy policy going to do about that?
To Huntsman's credit: he managed to answer that diplomatically. (Which
makes sense: he was a diplomat.)
Another questioner was studying Chinese; he requested that Huntsman
answer in Mandarin, and Huntsman obliged. This got the biggest laugh
of the day. Sounded good to me, but it
has been alleged that Huntsman's fluency in Chinese is overstated.
Summary: on the issues, better than Romney. But he'll wind up as (at
best) Secretary of State in the Romney Administration.