Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who received much fanfare from the news media when he first announced his presidential ambitions in June, continues to lag in the polls. It's a clear sign that his cool-tempered, centrist-ish approach isn't resonating with Republican voters.
But that doesn't seem to have discouraged Hunstman. Over the past week, he has made a renewed effort to distinguish himself from the other Republican presidential candidates by pouncing whenever they--in his words--veer "too far to the right."
When Texas Gov. Rick Perry expressed doubt in evolution and climate change, for instance, Huntsman immediately went on the offensive. "To be clear," Huntsman wrote in a post on Twitter. "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
And on Sunday Huntsman said that the leading Republican candidates had "zero substance" in an interview on ABC's "This Week." He added that he wouldn't "trust any of my opponents" on the economy, citing their opposition to raising the debt ceiling.
"I wouldn't necessarily trust any of my opponents who are on the recent debate stage with me when every single one of them would have allowed this country to default," Huntsman told ABC's Jake Tapper.
On Republican skepticism of global warming and evolution, Huntsman warned that Republicans face an increasing risk of being perceived as "anti-science."
"The minute that the Republican Party becomes the ... anti-science party, we have a huge problem," he said.
The strategy is an attempt claim the center, or as he puts it, run a campaign that focuses on "a center-right message for a center-right country." Huntsman is banking on winning New Hampshire, which holds the first primary of the election cycle and has long been known as a state that welcomes moderate candidates, especially compared to Iowa.
"Right now this country is crying out for a sensible middle ground," he said. "Right now we have people on the fringes."
The strategy is not unlike Arizona Sen. John McCain's failed bit for the Republican nomination in 2000, when he essentially skipped Iowa and kept to the left of George W. Bush.
It didn't work in 2000, but McCain nabbed the nomination eight years later. (As The Ticket noted back in March, Huntsman has picked up several former McCain staffers.)
Several political observers have noted that Huntsman may be running for 2016, not 2012. The possibility that Huntsman has his eyes on the long term isn't too far fetched. Before Huntsman announced his decision to run in June, the chairman of his political action committee suggested in an email that Huntsman was considering running in an election cycle beyond 2012.