Former two-term Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has stepped down from his position as ambassador to China and may launch a bid for the Republican nomination to face the pro-abortion president for whom he currently is a diplomat.
Huntsman, who is pro-life and supported and signed into law parental consent requirement for abortion, is a Republican but is known for bucking the establishment and he did so when he accepted the nomination to become ambassador to the Asian nation. He did so in part because he learned to speak Mandarin while on Mormon mission to Taiwan during college.
Now he may be speaking the language of fundraising and grassroots support as White House officials tell both Poltico and ABC News they expect him to resign from his position to mount a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. They point to the fact that GOP political operatives have set up a new political action committee called Horizon Pac to serve as placeholder for what could become an exploratory committee. Susie Wiles, a Florida-based Republican strategist who ran the gubernatorial campaign of pro-life candidate Rick Scott, will head the organization.
Huntsman, who is very wealthy, met with 2008 presidential candidate John McCain over the Christmas holiday and Huntsman was one of the early backers of McCain in 2008 GOP primary. At the time, sources close to McCain confirmed the two discussion a potential Huntsman candidacy for president.
Huntsman, who is expected to announce any presidential campaign early this summer, was the subject of some joking when Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and the ambassador recently.
“I couldn’t be happier with the ambassador’s service, and I’m sure he will be very successful in whatever endeavors he chooses in the future,” Obama said of Huntsman at a press conference. “And I’m sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary.”
Those ties with Obama are seen as a potential weakness for the former governor heading into the 2012 campaign but, at the same time, the foreign policy credentials could put him ahead of the pack. However, other potential shortcomings include his moderate stance on other political issues, his public condemnation of Republicans in Congress, and his Mormon faith — which was seen as a millstone around Mitt Romney’s neck in some states in 2008.
While Huntsman may not be conservative enough to capture the primary election nomination, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air speculates he may be able to hurt Obama.
The White House strategists may have been too clever by half. Few people had heard of Huntsman outside of Utah in 2009. While Huntsman had a good center-right record in the state, he had not done much to build himself into a national brand. Since then, the political winds have blown far more favorably to conservatives within the GOP, which may have left Huntsman on the outside in any case. Now Huntsman has a much higher profile than he may otherwise have attained.
In fact, they may have done themselves more damage than good. Putting Huntsman in China would give him more credibility in foreign policy than just about any of the other presumed candidates in the GOP race except for John Bolton. Even if Huntsman doesn’t win the nomination, criticism of Obama’s “smart diplomacy” from within the fold — especially from the man who managed the key relationship with the nation that holds a large chunk of our debt — will do significant damage to Obama in a general election.
This looks like an effort to push Huntsman into resigning as soon as possible. The sooner Huntsman leaves, the sooner the White House can blame him for the failures in the US-China relationship over the last two years.