With Jon Huntsman's presidential announcement on June 21, the former Utah governor joins a crowded field vying for the Republican nomination. But while MSNBC has put most GOP hopefuls through the ringer, Huntsman has been heralded by the network as Mr. Civility in an otherwise nutty Republican field.
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On the May 23 edition of "Morning Joe," Time magazine's Mark Halperin summarized the network's adulation for Huntsman most succinctly: "He's a Morning Joe candidate."
"Given that he's not ever done this, given that he's been immersed in U.S.-China relations for the last two years, I was pretty blown away," added Halperin.
During the same segment, MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle compared Huntsman to JFK, gushing, "The guy was so smooth, the guy was so comfortable, so handsome, so articulate, so composed."
Buttressing Barnicle's point, Halperin recalled: "And one of the liberal trackers said 'I really like this guy.'"
On the May 16 edition of MSNBC News Live with Cenk Uygur, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter touted Huntsman's "likability" as a "critical" factor: "Huntsman also benefits from Huckabee's departure because Huckabee was the most likeable candidate in the race. Likability is critical. Likable Newt Gingrich is not. Huntsman is pretty likable."
When asked by MSNBC's Willie Geist on the June 1 "Morning Joe" to calculate Huntsman's odds, Halperin pegged him as a potential "finalist" in the race: "I think he's got the second best chance to be the nominee right now after Mitt Romney. Not very far ahead of Tim Pawlenty but I think if he lives up to his potential he will be a finalist in this thing for sure."
"Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski praised herself on June 13 for having predicted Huntsman's rise: "This is someone, I don't know, who I think is going to burst onto the national scene. I really do. I've thought that for about six months now."
Moments earlier, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough hailed Huntsman's rhetorical skills: "He seems very sure of himself. He can speak in complete sentences. One sentence actually relates to the previous sentence. He reeled together a very effective paragraph there. And these days in American politics, that ain't nothing."
Like all candidates competing for the nomination, Huntsman will have to demonstrate his conservative bona fides to primary voters. Time will tell whether receiving the "Morning Joe" seal of approval by the same network whose anchor felt a thrill up his leg after hearing Barack Obama speak will, as Scarborough put it, "doom" Huntsman's candidacy.
"We've been too nice to him," quipped Scarborough on June 17. "He's done."
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.