It was only a couple of weeks ago that Utah’s Governor, Jon Huntsman, came up on the national radar as a potential rival to Barack Obama’s eventual re-election bid in 2012. Huntsman is young, competent, articulate, and appears to be able to position himself as acceptable to both social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. Sort of.
Obama, in turn, might be looking around to wonder whether he can hold on to his office under these crushing economic circumstances. If he can’t turn the economy around, he’ll have to absorb the blame. So he would want to make sure that the Republicans don’t send someone against him who can take away the perception that he brings more competence and good economic policy to the White House than the Republicans can offer. So he might feel good reason to fear Huntsman. And he found a solution to that problem. Sort of.
President Obama appointed Gov. Huntsman to be his ambassador to China, and Huntsman has accepted. Now, this will give him familiarity with working with Democrats, and the ambassadorship to China would give him huge experience dealing with the most significant set of challenges facing America in the long term. So in terms of making him a good choice to be President, it only helps Huntsman. But of course Republicans will need to be given a very good reason to trust Huntsman ever again after this. He has taken himself out of the running for the 2012 nomination and possibly out of Presidential politics forever.
A clever move by the President, if Huntsman’s prowess as a candidate was what the early hype was suggesting. And if that’s really the case, I have to wonder why Huntsman would have accepted the appointment. If I were in politics, I’d rather finish out my resume by being President than by being Ambassador to China. Maybe he’s counting on the political landscape looking very different in 2016 than it does today — very different as in a radical restructuring or outright collapse of the Republican Party.