Jon Huntsman should stop attacking Ron Paul, and start challenging Mitt Romney

Team Huntsman, which is in danger of becoming an asterisk in the presidential campaign, is attacking Ron Paul over his newsletters while completely failing to make the case that he is a credible challenger to Mitt Romney.

Jon Huntsman is a very good man. He was a very good governor. He should be a very credible presidential candidate. Yet I must confess, having written favorably about Huntsman long before he began his race for the White House, his campaign has been a litany of missed opportunities.

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Huntsman should be able to make the case that he is more conservative than Romney, more consistently conservative than Romney and more electable than Romney.

It is no secret among those who really know that Huntsman had been the candidate the White House feared the most. With electability moving to the forefront in Republican politics, Huntsman should be appealing to conservatives as more conservative than Romney, and appealing to Republicans as the most electable Republican.

Yet with his numbers in New Hampshire far too modest at this stage to keep his candidacy alive after New Hampshire, with his decision to completely avoid Iowa, and with his candidacy in danger of saying farewell in the coming weeks, Huntsman’s campaign team attacks Ron Paul?

The only conclusion I can arrive at for these very bad political decisions is that Huntsman is not running for president. He is running for secretary of State or another position and does not want to offend Republican power brokers by launching a frontal campaign against Romney.

This is unfortunate. The country would be well served by a Huntsman candidacy that offered a serious challenge to Romney. He need not be nasty but he should be clear, coherent and sustain challenging Romney on grounds of both conservatism and electability.

Instead, Huntsman misfires against Ron Paul.

If Huntsman does not rise well above the numbers he is currently polling in New Hampshire, I expect him to drop out and endorse Romney before the rooster crows 20 times in January.

Huntsman’s only chance is to challenge Romney on conservatism and electability. Because he is not doing this seriously, if historians reflect on his candidacy at all, they will simply say: he could have been a contender, but was not.

Too bad.