He was once considered a rising star in the GOP. But after taking a position in the Obama administration, his name has mostly disappeared from the GOP's lexicon. Now, however, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. is changing that as he begins hinting at a possible 2012 presidential run.
Huntsman, who shares a name with his philanthropist and businessman father Jon Huntsman, Sr., is currently the U.S. ambassador to China. It's an ambassadorship many think was used as a pawn in a game of political chess: with Huntsman out of the picture, and literally out of the country, he couldn't gain momentum for a 2012 run against President Obama.
That theory isn't too conspiratorial. Obama campaign manger David Plouffe once said that Huntsman makes him feel a "wee bit queasy" because he's "speaking a lot of truth about the direction of the party."
Enter a new Newsweek profile and a "wee bit queasy" could develop into a full on sickness:
Now, it appears, the ambassador is ready to make some noise of his own. Sitting in the echo-y living room of his new Washington home, Huntsman, a tall, lean man with silver hair and impeccable posture, pauses only briefly when faced with the question of presidential aspirations. “You know, I’m really focused on what we’re doing in our current position,” he says. “But we won’t do this forever, and I think we may have one final run left in our bones.” Asked whether he is prepared to rule out a run in 2012 (since it would require him to campaign against his current boss), he declines to comment. [Emphasis added]
The winking response—about as close to a hat-in-ring announcement as you’ll get from a sitting member of the incumbent’s administration—could just be a hollow cry for attention. But sources close to Huntsman (who requested anonymity to speak freely without his permission) say that during his December trip to the U.S., he met with several former political advisers in Washington and Salt Lake City to discuss a potential campaign.
His extensive foreign policy experience, something many 2012 GOP contenders lack, could make him a viable candidate.
"Huntsman, 48, cuts an impressive figure and has a fascinating personal and political story to tell, including the sort of foreign policy background most governors lack," Politico's Jonathan Martin wrote in 2008, before a Chinese ambassadorship would bolster that experience even more. "The scion of a prominent Mormon family, he served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore for Bush 41 when he was in his early 30s, did trade stints in the Commerce Department and was a deputy U.S. trade representative under the current Bush, overseeing trade with Africa and Asia."
Another Politico reporter, Mike Allen, now thinks Huntsman's run is a given. "Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., age 50, LEANS STRONGLY toward running in 2012," he reportedly wrote in Saturday's "Playbook." "Heads will explode at 1600 and in RomneyWorld - Obama-appointed ambassador to China shows his cards in Dec. 12 interview with young Mormon reporter for Newsweek."