Thursday, September 22, 2011

What the Suffolk poll means for Romney, Perry and Jon Huntsman

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 9/23/11

It means that Jon Huntsman has a chance for vice president.

As expected, Mitt Romney received 41% in the recent poll of Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH TV) of likely voters in New Hampshire’s GOP presidential primary. As expected, Ron Paul came in second with 14%. It is good news for Jon Huntsman that he gained 6 points and came in third with 10%. He can hold on now at least till the end of February, by which time he will be a household name. He has always has been an attractive and competent figure.

There was no question that Mitt Romney would win this. He lives here. Also, the composition of New Hampshire has changed. We are no longer the mythic mountain individuals of yore, with “the granite of New Hampshire made part of them till death” as the Dartmouth Alma Mater has it. More like a suburb of Boston with lower taxes. For both Democrats and Republicans, the NH primary tells how the candidate will fare in Massachusetts. Wes Clark was well ahead in the last, but Kerry won. Romney will win this time.

One of the luminous mysteries both here and in Massachusetts is that we like Mormons. My father, who was born in 1899 and by 1968 had likely never spoken to a person who was not either Irish or French Quebecois and would certainly never think of voting for any not sanctioned by the Catholic/Democratic establishment, really liked George Romney. Unlike Christians elsewhere with complicated ontological reservations, I think he and his class and generation of Irish Catholics who would not even think of marrying outside the parish, made no distinction between Mormons and any other group. They were all going to hell anyway. In a more secular time, smart people impress in New England and we see Mormons as way smart. So Huntsman should be expected to continue to rise in New Hampshire.

Huntsman has been surfing Mitt Romney’s (Mormon) wave from the beginning. If it works for Romney it will work for Huntsman. Huntsman is a great looking guy. He is young and smart as paint. Romney has a dark, vindictive edge (“No Apology”) and Huntsman has natural buoyancy. (Although Romney’s dark side would be a good match up with the good-natured Perry: Eisenhower/Nixon.) Huntsman’s got a great family and looks half-Buddhist in those photos with the tilaka on his forehead (symbolizing the “third eye” of intuition in Hindu) and we have a tendency toward that with the Emerson/Thoreau/Alcott tradition in New England.

That is what we will see, but a Texan with long lineage like Perry will see something different. Texas and Utah have historic kinship and they also have kinship with California. From our view in the northeast, California is an annex of New York where we make movies. Like Obama, we are children exclusively of the geist. But it is not. Perry spends much time in California pulling business away into Texas. Huntsman and Perry understand the west from a pioneer’s perspective and Huntsman brings natural conduit to India and Asia across the Pacific to our western shore. You don’t get that part with Mitt Romney.

Huntsman had an 80% approval rating as governor of Utah. Perry could do no better for his VP and in second position, the Mormon issues will diminish.

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