Elias Isquith at the League reflects on Huntsman’s predicament:
Besides Buddy Roemer, Jon Huntsman is my favorite of the GOP field. I imagine more than a few left-leaning people would agree with me on that one. He’s kind of like an inverse of Joe Lieberman — the Republican wonky lefties like. Even if we like Huntsman, that doesn’t mean that we’d vote for him. It’s not very complicated; he’s a conservative. So there he is in the worst of both worlds: the people who in theory would vote for him resent him for, in their eyes, being a bad teammate; and the people on the other side give him a pat on the head, but nothing more.
The comparison with Lieberman has occurred to me, but I thought it might seem unfairly harsh. Here’s what puzzles me: why would “wonky lefties” like him? Forget about the Iran and Israel business for the moment. Just look at Huntsman’s record and his proposals as a candidate on domestic issues. He is more or less an older version of Paul Ryan, whom “wonky lefties” certainly do not adore. As Ezra Klein pointed out months ago, Huntsman has been the candidate willing to make meaningless gestures to demonstrate that he is not in lockstep with his party on matters relating to science and environmental policy, but his actual positions on environmental policy in this campaign are essentially no different from the other candidates’ views. He differed with conservatives on cap-and-trade in the past, but went out of his way to disavow that position once he started running. The hawkish Republican love affair with Joe Lieberman has been deeply unfortunate in many ways, but at least everyone knows why they are heaping praise on the man. What explains similar liberal adulation for Huntsman? There doesn’t seem to be any policy or political reason for it. Is it simply a bizarre reverse tribalism that inspires liberals to root for a candidate that conservatives have rejected?