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Jon Chait notes today that Jon Huntsman admitted in 2009 that the Republican Party had become too extreme for someone like him to ever win its presidential nomination:
It's not like the GOP has moved to the center since then, either. So why is he running now? Almost certainly, Huntsman is hoping to raise his name recognition, run a credible campaign, and then, if and when a prospective Obama reelection prompts the party to move to the center, set himself up as an acceptable candidate for 2016.
I happen to agree with Jon: Huntsman almost certainly knows that he can't win this year and that Obama is likely to be reelected anyway. But I'll also say this: if it's really true that Huntsman is just positioning himself for 2016, it displays an almost stunning level of ambition and discipline. Running for president is a long, soul-destroying, almost mind-bogglingly grueling exercise, and that's true even if you're independently wealthy and only running a semi-campaign. After all, you still have to do all the events, speak to all the groups, grovel for money to show you're serious, pander to the interest groups, travel ten thousand miles a month, deal with the press, etc.
Now, it's one thing to do that if you think you might actually win the presidency. But doing it just to set yourself up for a possible win four years down the road? That's some serious dedication. Huntsman must have a level of determination and self-control that makes Thomas Edison look like an indolent street urchin.