The 2,500-seat Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts sold out March 31 for an appearance by Jon Huntsman as part of the Philadelphia Speaker Series.
Two days later, Huntsman filled Boston Symphony Hall.
Another Huntsman appearance at UCLA later this month is sold out.
Without the benefit of incessant media attention some early 2016 prospects have been receiving, Huntsman’s visions and his authentic, inspiring way of conveying them has been attracting, and resonating with, capacity audiences.
At the Kimmel Center, Huntsman drew laughs in lowering his hand slowly to the floor, a metaphor for the impact on his 2012 primary prospects when Bill Clinton said “this Huntsman guy is somebody I could vote for.” More laughs followed as he lowered his hand further to demonstrate the impact of similar kudos from Jimmy Carter.
Only in an environment of hyper-partisanship, Huntsman said, can praise from former presidents be twisted into a political liability. He blasted additional symptoms of hyper-partisanship such as the gerrymandering of districts and the staggering amounts of donor money in current politics that he called “an abomination.”
An Associated Press-GfK poll taken last week revealed that no current 2016 GOP prospect has positive net favorability. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin fared the best with a 27-to-29 percent favorable-to-unfavorable breakout. Hillary Clinton received the only net positive response in either party, 46 percent favorable to 39 percent unfavorable.
The only Republican who has polled favorably against Hillary, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has had his prospects dented, if not derailed, by Bridgegate.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the March 8 CPAC straw poll victor, soon took Christie's place as the GOP front-runner. His ascent, in turn, sparked establishment Republican donors to step up their courtship of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, perceived as a more viable potential candidate, to seek the nomination.
Bush has establishment bona fides, executive experience as a two-term governor and name recognition which is on par with Hillary Clinton’s — but which could also prove to be a double-edged sword as “Bush fatigue” and the “dynastic” concerns of many about a third Bush family member in the White House could diminish his voter appeal.
Other names being mentioned include Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich and Rob Portman.
Huntsman’s name is mentioned less frequently and his campaign was perceived as relatively insignificant by some — but it was Huntsman about whom Barack Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina conceded the campaign had been more concerned about facing in the general election than Romney, or any other 2012 candidate.
In his second year heading up No Labels, Huntsman and his co-chair, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), have helped swell the ranks of its Congressional Problem Solvers from 25 a year ago to nearly 100. Huntsman also hosts No Labels Radio on Siruis XM, which launched last October and features interviews with Problem Solvers and others from Perry to educators like Wharton School Professor Mike Useem to the occasional surprise like rock legend Jon Anderson of Yes.
In January, No Labels released an e-book edited by Huntsman called “No Labels: A Shared Vision for a Stronger America” obtainable through its website.
The book outlines visions often discussed by Huntsman in his appearances and which form the main goals of the No Labels National Strategic Agenda:
1.Create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years
2.Reform Medicare and Social Security to be secure for 75 years
3.Balance the federal budget by 2030
4.Make America energy self-sufficient by 2035
Huntsman also writes about his experiences as governor in establishing agendas and developing bipartisan consensus within state government, which resulted in Utah being named Best Managed and Best for Business during his tenure. In response, Huntsman won re-election with 77 percent of the vote in 2008.
Presently preparing for a spring of 2015 launch of the No Labels National Strategic Agenda, Huntsman is non-committal about another presidential run.
Should he run, he would benefit from the foundation laid during his 2012 run, albeit brief — particularly in New Hampshire where he finished third with 17 percent of the vote and would stand to garner a significant slice of Romney's 39 percent as well in 2016.
Huntsman’s overseas experience through several ambassadorships would be another plus — a credential no other GOP prospect at present can lay claim to, and which could neutralize the advantage of Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State.
But Huntsman’s best asset may, as a compelling orator, be his ability to tap into a sweet spot of support one audience at a time and build momentum over the next eighteen months, in tandem with the No Labels’ National Strategic Agenda rollout, toward a critical mass campaign launch, should he decide on a 2016 run.
If he does, the GOP will have a wild card up its sleeve.
Allvoices Anchor Reporter