Eve Fairbanks has an interesting profile on the candidate I once predicted would take the field by surprise, Duncan Hunter. There is a part of the profile that explains a lot about why Hunter doesn’t connect with his natural constituency in the GOP:
At a town hall meeting in Reno, Hunter’s policy profile attracts several heavily made-up women upset about Mexican immigration. They’re mad as hell. But Hunter never yells, and his detailed discussion of an intercountry highway supposedly proposed after NAFTA only serves to confuse them. “I don’t understand. NAFTA–you would build a highway in between our country and theirs?” one of the women shouts.
As Fairbanks notes, he is “too fringe to be mainstream” and “too mainstream to be fringe,” and this episode shows that he is also too policy and detail-oriented to be the kind of politician who can win over restrictionist voters, namely the single-issue candidate who talks about virtually nothing else (Tancredo) or the simplistic panderer who will say whatever you want to hear (a role apparently filled now by Huckabee). We can rest assured that Huckabee will never confuse his voters with unnecessary details and information.
Given how horribly he has done everywhere, why did I ever think that Hunter might be the surprise dark horse candidate in the race? I originally thought that someone with his trade and immigration policy views he would become a successful insurgent candidate, tapping into the discontent of the base, and could offer the GOP a chance to compete respectably in a political environment in which the GOP needs to appeal to populist voters. With his long years of service on the Armed Services Committee, he was better prepared to take up the Presidency during wartime than just about any other candidate.