Republican Jon Huntsman Resigns as Ambassador to China to Explore a Run for President

Bookmark and Share White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has announced that the United States Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman “plans to leave during the first part of this year.” Reports indicate that a source close to Politico claims that Ambassador Huntsman submitted his letter of resignation as early as Monday but there is no indication of when that resignation is to officially take effect.

Huntsman, a Republican, is a highly popular former Governor of Utah and was viewed as having both a good shot at, and serious ambitions of becoming President. In fact, it was the popularity and perceived elect ability of Jon Huntsman which is said to have been one of the main reasons President Obama picked Huntsman to be the Ambassador to China. In addition to having a great breadth of experience in Asian affairs and speaking fluent Mandarin, it is said that the selection of Huntsman was largely a strategic one designed to keep Huntsman out of the hunt for President in 2012. Close Obama strategists have been said to have once considered Huntsman one of the most difficult Republican opponents to beat in a general election.

In a general election, that may in fact be true. But Huntsmans chances of winning the Republican nomination before getting to that point, may be even more difficult than the general election for President.

While the former Utah Governor racked up an extraordinary record on jobs, spending, budgets and the economy of Utah, before resigning during the first year of his second term in order to accept his ambassadorship, Huntsman came out in support of several issues that are poisonamong social conservatives and much of the Republican base. Most notable was his support of gay marriage. It is on social issues like that, which Huntsman would have a tough time getting by the GOP base with. But it would not be an insurmountable challenge for the talented diplomat and politician.

On issues like abortion, Huntsman is a strong ally of movement conservatives and it is on other hot buttons issues of the day, such as trade, spending, taxes, and jobs that Huntsman has wide appeal. These are also the very reasons why Huntsman has been rumored to be establishing a presidential exploratory committee. If Huntsman sees opportunities to exploit his record as Governor along with his expertise and experience as a former U.S. Trade Representative to Asia, and one time Ambassador to Singapore in addition to his most recent stint as Ambassador to China, arguable the most important international relationship we have right now, than Huntsman is likely to take advantage of those opportunities. That will especially be the case if the emerging field of Republican presidential contenders fails to produce a unifying figure substantial enough for most conservatives to get behind.

That type of situation would allow the conservative vote to be split and leave Huntsman fighting for the middle among people like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Of course both Pawlenty and Romney are already trying to shore up their appeal to conservatives, and so will Huntsman. On many issues, Huntsman can be as conservative as the next guy. But in 2012 people like Huntsman and even Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels are banking on jobs, the deficit and the economy to be the overriding issues. Issues which both Daniels and Huntsman have strong state records on. These also provide with openings in to winning the support of those involved in TEA Party movement.

But Jon Huntsman also has the opportunity to build on something which his most likely potential opponents do not.

With his experience as a former U.S. Trade Representative and his expert knowledge on China, Huntsman can offer a unique perspective on the crucial elements of trade with China and the burgeoning Asian markets that we must remain competitive in if we hope to maintain a strong economic future. His knowledge of Chinacan alsoplay a pivotal role in handling many issues that impact on our national security, such as the nuclear ambitions of rogue regimes like Iran and even more prominently, North Korea.

As pointed out in a previous White House 2012 post, Jon Huntsman could run a very potent campaign. But it all depends on who else is running in 2012 and whether or not the issues of today are the same ones that are on front burners in 2012. In the meantime, close allies of the President who are preparing for his reelectioncampaign, havealready beenbracing themselves for a challenge from Huntsman. Many Obama insidershave been referring toHuntsman as “the Manchurian Candidate”. The President has himself joked about Huntsman and made some tongue in cheeks remarks about how certain he is that the Ambassador’s work with him, will go over real well in a Republican primary.

The way I see it though, Republicans won’t hold Huntsman’s acceptance to serve the President as Ambassador to China against him, but the ever important independent voters within America’s electorate will really appreciate the fact that aRepublican like Huntsman iscan be tapped for

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