The likely entry of Jon Huntsman Jr. into the gubernatorial race is going the shake things up dramatically. But perhaps Huntsman won’t be a slam-dunk winner like most pundits (me included) thought he would be. The popular Huntsman may not be invincible, after all.
Huntsman’s apparent vulnerability, and the prospect of a Huntsman/Spencer Cox battle, might actually encourage other candidates to get into the race. In a free-for-all, with no “anointed” candidate, anything can happen.
It could also be the battle of the big names, with Greg Miller and Spencer Eccles at least considering jumping in – not to mention solid candidates like Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright. An open governor’s seat is a very big temptation.
We’re going to have more survey research in the near future on this topic, but it appears that Spencer Cox will be a tough competitor against Huntsman, especially among Republicans.
Huntsman has always been quite moderate, but I’m a little surprised at his lack of support among Utah Republicans. Since he left the governorship he went to work for Barack Obama, then Donald Trump. I’m not sure what problem Republicans have with him.
Huntsman could take the “moderate” lane to the governorship, with lots of support from Democrats, but Cox is already at least partly filling that lane.
Could Huntsman run as an independent? Perhaps. It would be difficult and take a lot of money, and Democrats would essentially have to adopt him as their candidate – but that is certainly possible.
But Huntsman’s political prowess should not be underestimated. He would bring remarkable experience, credentials and global contacts and relationships to the governorship. Worldwide leaders would certainly return his calls. He could plausibly make the argument that he’s best positioned to take the state to the next level, to make Utah the best state in the country to live, work, play and raise a family. (Oh, wait, Gov. Herbert already makes that claim.)
Part of Huntsman’s charm is that he is political royalty with a common touch. He comes from a wealthy, iconic Utah family, but he rides a Harley and eats at taco stands. It’s a very effective combination. Lots of people love royalty. We all love a common touch.
So here we are, 15 months before the 2020 election, and the gubernatorial election is already full of intrigue. Plenty more twists and turns will occur before this contest is over. For political junkies, this going to be fun.