Obama: Jon Huntsman Would Be Great 'Asset' In Any GOP Primary

President Barack Obama is making light of speculation that his ambassador to China could run against him as a Republican in the 2012 presidential election.

At a news conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday, Obama joked that the fact that Ambassador Jon Huntsman has worked so well with him would be a great "asset" in any GOP primary.

Huntsman is a moderate Republican who had been considered a possible presidential contender in 2012 before Obama selected him as ambassador. Huntsman fueled presidential speculation recently by declining comment when asked if he will run in 2012.

McKay Coppins at Newsweek reported earlier this month:

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.

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.

Utah-based station ABC 4 reported last month:

There is one republican presidential candidate that President Barack Obama's campaign manager fears the most in 2012...and his name is Jon Huntsman Jr.

While no republican presidential candidate yet makes Obama's team "shake in {their} shoes...," President Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, tells the U.S. News and World Report that Governor Jon Huntsman makes him, a "wee bit queasy...I think he's really out there speaking a lot of truth about the direction of the party."