Establishment Republicans are reportedly trying to convince former Utah Governor and failed 2012 presidential candidate Jon Huntsman to oust Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in 2016.
CNN’s John King said on Inside Politics that national establishment leaders in the business community will join state establishment leaders to try to convince President Barack Obama’s former Ambassador to China to challenge Lee.
King noted that Huntsman’s deep-pocketed dad (Huntsman Sr., though, did pony up funds to his son’s campaign down the stretch–perhaps because he saw the writing on the wall.) does not like Lee (Huntsman Sr. is reportedly upset his cancer institute did not get taxpayer funds during the government shutdown.)–Huntsman Sr. has reportedly been scouting potential challengers with others who are reportedly plotting to oust Lee.
Huntsman strangely tried to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination by attacking conservatives. That didn’t work out too well. He is now with “No Labels,” which brings together politicians from the bipartisan political class that both establishments love more than voters in both parties.
Lee helped ignite the Tea Party and inspired citizen-candidates across the country when he ousted incumbent Utah Sen. Bob Bennett in 2012. Because Lee has stood with conservatives in D.C. on some of the most important fights–like repealing Obamacare and overturning Obama’s executive amnesty–the establishment, according to King, wants “revenge” on him.
Though it is unlikely Huntsman will challenge Lee, the contrast between the two would not be more clear.
Though Huntsman was a popular governor in Utah, his 2012 campaign showed that he, his family, and advisers loved the attention of the elite mainstream press (see: Vogue spreads) and thought of them as their base.
The establishment hates Lee for the same reason it loves Huntsman. Lee sides with conservatives and voters even when it is not convenient inside the beltway while Huntsman has shown that he will side with whatever is popular with the bipartisan permanent political class that is becoming more distant from everyday voters.
Establishment Republicans have also tried to court Mitt Romney’s son, Josh. But Josh Romney would have a lot to lose if he even attempts to challenge Lee because conservatives across the nation would never forgive him. Huntsman, though, may have nothing to lose since he has long lost the trust of conservatives.
There is reportedly no word on whether Huntsman, who would also have to ensure that Utah voters and the press know how to spell his name, would challenge Lee in a Republican primary or as an independent/Democrat.