I did read some background stories that indicate there was a little tension between the two at the time of the 2002 Olympics. Both were in consideration to come in and "save" the games from the scandals that had plagued the bidding process.All bad blood is denied, but it may be that Huntsman was a little resentful towards Romney. The Olympics were a great success, and Romney is very popular for that. I have a friend who worked for the Olympics as a computer guy and he said he was a big Romney fan and would vote for him, no matter what, for whatever office he ran.
Huntsman was a two-term-elected governor who was very popular in the State of Utah. He is a solid conservative and a decent guy. And while conservative, he is not a crazy tea-partier, cold-warrior, neo-con, or skousenite-beckian, which makes him a flaming moderate in this state. Only after safely elected to his second term did he acknowledge that he was a supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples. He also supported anti-discrimination laws for gays in housing and employment, a policy that was even acceptable to the LDS Church.
Trying not to be influenced by cultural/religious prejudices, I still find them to be the best candidates in the Republican field! I used to really like Romney when he was the moderate governor of a progressive state (Massachusetts). I don't like the current version so much and thought his performance in 2008 was appalling trying to outdo the neo-cons on torture and war. But after the Republican debate last Monday, he seems like the most solid and reasonable of that crowd. He has even been written-off by Rush Limbaugh for acknowledging global climate change at least in part influenced by human activity. That right there is almost enough for me to like him. He could even go to the middle to govern as president. I just don't think I can support him, though. He's still pretty annoying in his trying-so-hard to be presidential yet an "every-guy" as he leaves off his tie (but still looks like he should have one on!) But you have to hand it to him that he must have learned something last time as he seems so much better at it, playing the cautious front-runner, deflecting Palin and the others masterfully, etc. We'll just have to see. I'm still not sure the Republican base will go for him especially the more he seems forced on them by the Republican establishment.
Huntsman is playing this pretty cool even if he also acknowledges global warming and has maintained his somewhat credible moderation on social policy. He has business credentials as solid as Romney, equally good record as governor, and better foreign-policy credentials having served as a US Ambassador a couple of times, most recently to the Peoples Republic of China. That, of course, because it was at the request of President Obama, is his principal disqualification with the Republican base. And the President and his political advisors knew that he was a threat and that's in part why they asked him to serve both to keep him out of the way and now to play off his disfavor with the Republican right. Yet it is that very thing that actually makes Huntsman more competitive in a general election with moderates and conservative Dems. And he's playing this well, not pandering to that right-wing, but setting himself out as the true "maverick" in the McCain mold (whom he supported in 2008). If you remember, Huckabee and Romney neutralized each other on the right allowing McCain to win the nomination. Huntsman is even trying to put on a bit of a Reagan-mantle, which oddly fits him more than the crazies who end up far to the right of Reagan. And, his winning strategy may just be to play off the China and business experience to be the leader in the fight against the fear of Chinese economic dominance.
Simply on the merits, I think Huntsman wins this hands-down. They neutralize out on governing experience. Huntsman quit, but into his second term. Romney flip-flopped to be disliked by the moderates and mistrusted by the conservatives. Huntsman went slightly moderate on social policy to be disliked by the conservatives. I think they both neutralize each other as successful business men, sons of the wealthy and successful (whether that's a plus or minus, I'll leave to you). Romney is more conservative than his dad, Huntsman is more moderate than his. Romney has solid Mormon cred as a mainstreamer. Huntsman, even if a slight heretic, has the stronger church family ties with his dad as a current General Authority and his late grandfather, David B. Haight, an Apostle. Yet Romney's name connects him to a relative in the First Presidency some years back who is still well-remembered. Both competent, both face challenges with their base. It seems Romney is more disliked on religion even if they blame the flip-flopping. Huntsman is disliked more for being a flaming moderate (he really isn't). Either one has to get real lucky and have all the crazy conservatives cancel each other out to have any chance at all.
Depending on the performance of the economy, I think either one could win in a general against Obama. Going out on a limb here, I think US conservatives would go with a white Mormon over Obama. The base will turn out in an attempt to defeat this President they despise unless the whole thing goes crazy with a third-party tea-partier. Then it wouldn't matter who the Republicans nominate. Obama wins.
Much entertainment yet to come in this political season.
Rambling on as usual, I welcome any comments.
Sigh. And Romney still hasn't gotten past the embarrassment-cringe stage (us, not him). He joked yesterday about how he is "unemployed" "looking for a job?" Talk about tone deaf. Then there was that corny thing pretending he had been "goosed" or something by those ladies posing for a picture. Huntsman will be a nice, and much more socially adept counter to Romney's stiffness. It's not the biggest issue with a president, but do you remember the W-cringes? Chancellor Merkel does.