Should Jon Huntsman Run as an Independent?

| Thu Jun. 23, 2011 7:57 AM EDT

Every presidential candidate talks about the importance of "independent" voters. But in an interview with Kasie Hunt, former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman takes it a step further:

In an interview with POLITICO, Huntsman made clear that he plans to capitalize on election rules in New Hampshire and South Carolina that allow independent voters to cast ballots in the GOP presidential primary.

"These are wide open primaries, we forget that," Huntsman said, predicting an independent turnout in New Hampshire as high as 40 percent. "[I] think, given the fluidity of the race in these early states, that we stand a pretty good chance, and we're putting that to the test."

The former Utah governor's strategy is an attempt to make a virtue out of necessity. His moderate positions on the environment, immigration and civil unions —and his time as Barack Obama's ambassador to China—are formidable obstacles to victory in a party where the energy is concentrated in the conservative core.

By Huntsman's own admission, his party's shift to the right has left him considerably out of step with the conservative base—a problem that's been reinforced by a string of polls, which show him bringing up the rear. So what's a professed Obama admirer and former moderate Republican governor to do? Nate Silver, riffing off of Huntsman's new anti-war push, tweets an unlikely scenario: "Independents want quick withdraw from Afghanistan too. Does the possibility of running as an independent enter into Huntsman's calculus?"