WASHINGTON--A crowd of eager college students huddled outside an auditorium at The George Washington University on Tuesday, pleading with a skinny kid wearing a headset to let them inside.
"There's no more room," the kid insisted. "I can't let you in."
Some in the crowd begged--one even asked me if he could pretend to be my journalism intern--but the head-geared door monitor held the line. Most of the students retreated to a flat-screen monitor in the center of the lobby.
Inside the auditorium, about 250 students sat quietly, waiting to hear Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, deliver his stump speech. The seats were filled by mostly College Republicans, Chinese exchange students eager to meet the former ambassador and a few liberals who just wanted to check out a Republican presidential candidate--the one, no doubt, that they liked the most.
If there's a location where Huntsman should feel the most comfortable, it's on a college campus. Since he announced his candidacy in June, Huntsman has cultivated a small but energized base of pragmatist college students through his "Generation H" initiative, which draws mostly 20-somethings attracted to his centrist, thoughtful approach. His three daughters, who sat in the front row, posted pictures of the speech on their shared Twitter page.
Huntsman's speeches aren't fiery, and his talk at GWU was no exception. He spoke of compromise and working with Democrats in order to "get things done."
"I hate the divide in this country because being divided as Americans is not natural. It's un-American," Huntsman said. "It's not consistent with who we are as blue-sky optimists. We're problem-solving people."
This has been Huntsman's pitch all along: He's the guy who can "do things," even if it means working with, (or, in his case as Obama's ambassador to China, for) liberals.
But the pitch isn't selling.
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