If you own a television, you've probably seen the commercial of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. at a Capitol news conference endorsing Utah's school voucher program facing a Nov. 6 referendum.Silly "political observers," Huntsman is like any other politican who got stuck on the wrong side of popular opinion. He doesn't want to go down with the ship. Romney was happy to trumpet his support from Sen. Larry Craig, until Craig's arrest report leaked.
What you don't see is the part of the news conference in which Huntsman tells Utahns it is OK to vote against vouchers.
"Whatever you think is right, whatever you can justify, is the right answer for you," Huntsman says in the portion voucher supporters edited out.
The governor's "lukewarm" support for vouchers - he refuses to take time to tape a real commercial, saying he will not be used as a "poster boy" for the issue - puzzles political observers and has allowed him to be claimed as a champion by both sides.
Of course, rather than admitting that Utahns don't want their terrible bill, voucher supports are going to blame the lukewarm messenger.
Voucher spin doctors edited his comments as best they could and now are using them in their latest TV ads. But if it turns out to be too little too late, they may blame Huntsman for not stepping up sooner.Really, please do primary him. I would love to see the Utah Republican party pick a crazy over Jon Huntsman, Jr. If they pick $100,000 to PCE Lampropoulos, maybe the Dems can convince Jim Matheson to run for Governor.
Hark back to the Republican convention fight of 2004 when Lampropoulos emerged as the delegates' preferred leader for several months leading to the convention. Lampropoulos was the top voucher drumbeater among the candidates. He not only talked the talk, he opened his wallet and contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the cause. He also gave Parents for Choice in Education free office space at his campaign headquarters.
Huntsman, meanwhile, told delegates at many a chili-and-fruit-punch backyard meeting that he supported vouchers. But his comments were carefully crafted, coming with conditions and certainly not with the born-again zeal Lampropoulos offered.
As the convention neared, Huntsman grabbed the momentum and appeared likely to come out of the convention as the front-runner. The mystery was who would be the runner-up and also qualify for the primary.
There still could be consequences for Huntsman. Pro-voucher business leaders continue griping about the governor's tepid support - which might have been one reason he finally agreed to show up at the press conference - and have approached some former Republican gubernatorial candidates about a possible run in 2008.