“I have great regard for Sen. McCain. I love the man. But it’s another example of establishment piling on,” Huntsman told reporters at Globe Incorporated, a first-responder fire suit manufacturer today.
“It seems the more establishment piles on, Dole, McCain, all the rest, nobody cares. Nobody cares about this. I mean, none of the endorsements that Romney picked up have been a thing in terms of how people respond, because the people are looking for a new generation of leadership. They’re looking for a new approach to problem solving in this country. You can get all the Doles and McCains in the world as Romney probably will, but in the end, nobody cares.”
If Huntsman were referring to the effect of McCain’s endorsement in most of the country, he would probably be right, but in New Hampshire he isn’t. Goodness knows why, but a lot of people in New Hampshire love McCain even more than Huntsman does, and his endorsement is actually helpful there, especially among non-Republicans. Since Huntsman has mistakenly staked everything on New Hampshire in an attempt to imitate McCain’s past success, McCain’s decision hurts him with the voters he needs and serves as a sharp symbolic rebuke. Because Huntsman switched to McCain from Romney last cycle (much to Romney’s annoyance), he must have expected McCain to repay the favor, and it has to burn a little that he didn’t. You can almost hear him saying, “Hey, I promised to invade Iran for you!”
The other reason Huntsman is complaining about this is that he has expected to be treated as the preferred alternative to Romney, and each pro-Romney endorsement from a leading national Republican is another reminder that it’s never going to happen. It’s not that he’s tone-deaf exactly. It’s that he felt entitled to a top spot in the presidential field, he expected that it would be given to him just for showing up, and now he’s annoyed that the party leaders he thought he was going to win over have refused to abandon Romney for him.