Deep End | Our Worldly Guv: Sophisticated Huntsman could mop the floor with Mitt in 2012. 

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The gowns from the inaugural balls are not even back from the dry cleaners, but the 2012 presidential campaign has already started. The pundits and soothsayers have already anointed Utah’s favorite son, Mitt Romney, as the presumptive Republican nominee. n

“I don’t care what the talking heads say,” says Milt Fogler, senior fellow at Idaho State University’s Institute of Rocky Mountain Politics, “but Mitt is done. He’s the dead parrot of American politics. Or the dead seagull, maybe.”

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If not Mitt, then who? How about Mike Huckabee, who is staying in the public eye as a pitchman for the SlenderGuy Girdle on QVC? Or Sarah Palin, who electrified the nation with her aw-shucks come-hither girlish charm, and who is now rumored to be having phone sex with Rush Limbaugh?

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According to Professor Fogler, neither Huckabee nor Palin are viable candidates. “It’s like, what were the Republicans thinking? Huckabee’s a good ol’ boy, but hardly presidential material. And Ms. Palin? There you go, America, you’ve been punked! She’ll fade faster than a loser on American Idol.”

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I told Professor Fogler that I couldn’t see anybody else out there who would make a respectable candidate in 2012.

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“The best candidate is right under your nose. Who am I talking about? Your popular governor, Jon Huntsman Jr. And I’m not just pulling this out of my ass. My friends down at the Hinckley Institute tell me that Gov. Huntsman has already assembled a campaign staff and will begin campaigning in earnest by the end of the summer.”

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But what about the Mormon question? Won’t Mr. Huntsman encounter the same difficulties that doomed the campaign of Mr. Romney?

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“That’s the obvious question. But we have to look at it from a different perspective. It wasn’t so much that Mr. Romney was a Mormon. The real problem was that Mr. Romney let himself be defined by his Mormonness. Or let me put it another way. Mr. Romney wore his religion on his sleeve or, rather, on his shoulder, like a chip he dared everyone to knock off.”

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It still wasn’t clear to me how Huntsman could avoid the Mormon question.

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“OK, when you look at Gov. Huntsman, do you think, ‘Hello, there’s a Mormon?’ Whereas Mitt was a Mormon out of central casting, oozing sanctimony from every pore, Mr. Huntsman has the sheen of worldly sophistication. He’s an international kind of guy. He doesn’t reek of sanctimony.”

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But won’t the Mormon-bashers round up the usual suspects—polygamy, garments, antigay theology, female oppression, history of racism, et cetera?

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Dr. Fogler gave me a sly grin, as if he had just been waiting for this question. “Huntsman’s handlers have already begun to find ways to portray him as a kind of accidental Mormon, someone not with the Iron Rod up his patootie. Look at how the governor is pushing for getting rid of Utah’s provincial liquor laws. But the ad guys are making sure the message gets out. Remember the fuss about subliminal advertising a few years ago? Well, it works, and in all the video released from the governor’s office, they’ve spliced in images of Mr. Huntsman dressed in black tie, sipping a martini, shaken not stirred. It’s too quick for the naked eye to see, but the image registers in the ocular synapses of the medulla oblongata.”

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Now that I thought about it, it did seem to me that the martini image was familiar, the governor, eyebrow cocked in his signature way, looking worldly and sophisticated.

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“But the Mr. Huntsman’s people are covering all the bases. Focus groups have told them that the governor seems too well-groomed, too impeccable, too put-together He scores higher in that department than Mitt Romney, who never has a hair out of place, nor any hairs at all on his pectorals during his frequent shirtless appearances.”

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I told Dr. Fogler that I experienced a sense of pride every time Gov. Huntsman won another award for being well groomed.

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“That may be, but pretty soon you’ll see Mr. Huntsman looking disheveled, even sloppy. Maybe his hair messed up a bit, or his shirttail out, or, most daring of all, sporting a three-days’ growth of beard.”

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I told Dr. Fogler that going sloppy was a dangerous move.

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“The governor’s people are willing to go all the way. Here’s their secret weapon: a whisper campaign that Huntsman likes to put a pinch of tobacco between his cheek and gums. When that gets around, the governor will be a lock for the nomination.” 

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D.P. Sorensen writes satire for City Weekly.

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