Starting Lineup: Huntsman In The Hunt
Good Monday morning and welcome back to the Starting Lineup. Here's our take on the day's political news.
Huntsman Getting Serious: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) looks like he' s getting serious about a 2012 White House bid.
Politico reports that the White House expects Huntsman to resign from his post as Chinese ambassador in the spring and he already has a political team beginning to take shape. "Horizon PAC" has been formed to house his political team and is being led by Susie Wiles, a Florida Republican strategist.
If he does resign, Huntsman would immediately catapult as a serious contender in a Republican primary field. Huntsman would immediately share some of the same turf as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who is considered the front runner for the nomination at this early point in the cycle. Both are Mormon, both have considerable wealth and both tout their records as effective managers.
But Huntsman also faces some obvious and significant hurdles, if he wants to be a viable presidential contender. He's a moderate on some of the most hot-button issues in a Republican electorate - immigration, climate change and China, among them - nevermind the fact he served in the Obama administration. And he shares many of the same strengths (and weaknesses) as Romney, without the fundraising and organizational know-how - making a Huntsman campaign appear like Romney Lite.
Rubio Part Deux? Republican Adam Hasner, the former Florida House Majority Leader, appears to be moving toward a Senate run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D). And, if he pulls the trigger, he'll do it through a conservative grassroots network he's spent years developing.
Per Adam Smith in the St. Petersburg Times: " [F]or years the Boca Raton lawyer has built a conservative network and in recent weeks he's met with activists, money-raisers and political operatives in every corner of the state."
Hotline On Call reported almost two months ago that Hasner, whose wife is a former aide to Jeb Bush and ran Meg Whitman's 2010 California gubernatorial bid, was looking at the race. Since then, sources say he has only gotten more serious about a run. Hasner would position himself to the right in a primary against state Senate Pres. Mike Haridopolos (R) -- who is already in the race -- as well as outgoing Sen. George LeMieux (R) and Rep. Connie Mack (R) -- who are both seriously looking at it.
Hasner's biggest asset in the primary would be his record of opposition to Gov. Charlie Crist (I), who is deeply unpopular among conservative Republicans, and his relationship with Sen. Marco Rubio (R), whose path from near obscurity to political stardom would be one Hasner would try to replicate. Hasner's biggest challenge will be raising his statewide profile, but is considered politically savvy and, according to sources in the state, there are a lot of big name Republican players who still haven't lined up behind a candidate.
Rivera In Hot Water: Speaking of Florida, the investigation into freshman Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) is deepening, putting the House Republican leadership in a difficult position.
The AP reported over the weekend that Rivera allegedly paid himself $60,000 from his campaign account for unexplained activities dating back to 2002, according to a survey of campaign finance records. That is in addition to previous reports that the investigation has now subpoenaed a Rivera aide regarding the congressman's relationship with a dog track.
The controversy has made its way to Washington. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked about it at a press conference late last week. More, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said that there will be zero tolerance for ethics violations in the new Republican majority and the Miami Herald reports that "House Republicans have said privately they're frustrated with the drumbeat of media attention surrounding the freshman lawmaker."
One thing looks like it's for sure: This headache isn't going away for the Republican leadership. Could we be seeing a 2011 special election for Rivera's seat (a fairly competitive district, that Democrats have contested two cycles in a row)?