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Jeff Greenfield: Jon Huntsman 'endorsed Romney with all the enthusiasm of a hostage tape participant'

The Morning Joe gang welcomed political analyst Jeff Greenfield to the show Tuesday, in part to get his perspective on the great Jon Huntsman kerfuffle that has rippled through the conservative blogosphere lately.

To recap: At a New York City event Sunday night hosted by Greenfield, the former Utah governor compared the Republican Party to communist China. Huntsman was recently disinvited from speaking at a GOP fundraiser after he went on Morning Joe to call publicly for a third party. Huntsman didn't do much to back down from his comments in another Morning Joe appearance Monday.

“Why did you do that to our friend Jon Huntsman?,” Joe Scarborough teased Greenfield Tuesday morning. “You wrecked his career in the Republican Party.”

But Greenfield said that in his view, there wasn’t much of a career to wreck.

“He’s one and a half feet out the door of the Republican Party,” Greenfield said of Huntsman, who ran for president this year as what passes these days for a moderate GOPer.

“He didn’t say that,” Greenfield added. "But when you take everything he said. First of all, the way he described his fellow competitors, he said, when I got on stage at the first debate, I had two thoughts: One, the barrier for entry is very low. And two, in a nation of 350 million people, is this the best we can do?”

“He endorsed Romney with all the enthusiasm of a hostage tape participant,” Greenfield added.

Speaking of which, Huntsman’s hardly the only prominent Republican to offer Romney a lukewarm endorsement (see Rudy Giuliani’s statement Monday, comparing Romney to a not-necessarily-likable but effective surgeon, which the Morning Joe gang also discussed).

But Scarborough argued that it’s not only Romney who might have trouble generating enthusiasm this fall.

“There’s an enthusiasm problem on both sides,” Scarborough said. “You’ve got Barack Obama, a guy that got young people out to vote for him, they got first-time voters out in record numbers. The Obama people right now are saying that’s going to be a real problem, matching that success, because there’s just not the excitement.”

Greenfield agreed, adding that the issue will come down to turnout. “We know he’s going to get the youth vote, or at least a good chunk of it,” he said of Obama. But the question is: “How much of it is there?”