Time Anoints Obama Ambassador Jon Huntsman as the GOP 'Cool Kid' In Weakest Field Since 1940?

Time magazine’s not being shy about who they like in 2012 GOP presidential field. A big spread in the May 23 edition is headlined "The Cool Kid: Jon Huntsman is a pro-civil union Mormon who spent nearly two years working for Obama." The main emphasis followed: 

He is, after all, a pro-civil-union Mormon who has just finished nearly two years of service for Obama in the land many Americans consider the new evil empire. He is pro-environment — a little too green for many in his party — and hardly anyone knows who he is. Though Huntsman's path to the nomination is a certified long shot, you have to wonder why so many on both the right and left seem to be freaking out at the prospect of his jumping into the race.

Henneberger says he’s "pro-environment" (read pro-cap-and-trade), but then insisted that "as governor, he did all the things Tea Party conservatives say they want, slashing taxes and adding jobs." On one hand, he’s an oxymoronic "pro-civil union Mormon," and on the other, he’s "antiabortion and pro-gun," so he’s "deeply conservative." As for the Mormon business, Huntsman is remarkably slippery:

And as for whether or not Huntsman still belongs to the Church of Latter-day Saints, I know less than I did before I asked him. ("I'm a very spiritual person," as opposed to a religious one, he says, "and proud of my Mormon roots." Roots? That makes it sound as if you're not a member anymore. Are you? "That's tough to define," he says. "There are varying degrees. I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.")

He wasn’t much on the issues either:

I don't even come close to getting him to spill such puny secrets as whether he thinks we should be in Afghanistan or Libya ("There will be more to say about that"), in what ways he disagrees with Obama ("I don't want to get into specifics") or, for that matter, where he parts company with his fellow Republicans, including his distant cousin, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ("It wouldn't be fair to offer an opinion without doing due diligence").

This guy can’t take a position on where he stands on anything, and yet his adviser’s trashing everyone else. Time also highlighted in big black letters Huntsman political adviser John Weaver (previously a McCain adviser) "This is the weakest Republican field since Wendell Wilkie won the nomination on the sixth ballot in 1940."

After touting Huntsman the "deeply conservative" governor, Time became more honest later in the piece, wondering if there’s room in the GOP for civility-sporting moderates like Huntsman: 

Huntsman could see and raise Obama in the cool-and-cerebral department. Does he ever get good and mad? "When you step in the dog poop in the house," says his wife with a snicker. But shows of pique, his friends say, are not really in his repertoire. "You can be stern and forthright, and that's my management style," he tells me, "but when you lose it totally, that's a sign of weakness." One imagines Obama and his former ambassador, who were born just a year apart, one-upping each other with humorous asides in the heat of political battle and, if things got really crazy, perhaps letting fly with a searing look.

When I ask where he disagrees with Obama, he says, "I'm a little reluctant, days off the plane, to take shots." There's something to admire in every President he's known, he adds, and he launches into a canny but glass-half-full rundown on Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes and Obama. The current occupant of the Oval Office, he says, "is trying to pick up the pieces of our economy and make sense of a world grown more complex and confusing."

....But in the age of the Tea Party, of cable and blogosphere bile, is there room for such civility on the national stage? Does the influence of the Tea Parties leave any room at all for a moderate like Huntsman? And does his party want to win badly enough to give anyone who might appeal to independents a shot? "Just because I don't yell, scream and shout," he says, "doesn't mean others aren't entitled to. And people want to be led" rather than pandered to, he insists, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

On the page after the Huntsman profile, Time's Mark Halperein casts Huntsman as a 20-to-1 shot for the nomination: "Just returned from China, he's off to a surprisingly fast start, impressing many pols and donors with his business background and presidential manner. He's supposedly way ahead in his chances compared to Sarah Palin (60 to 1) and Michelle Bachmann (1,000-to-1!) Huntsman is 50 times more likely to win than Bachmann, says Time.

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