Politics

Obama Admin Expects Jon Huntsman To Resign, Explore Presidential Run: Reports

The Obama administration anticipates Jon Huntsman, who the president appointed to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China, will leave his post to pursue a possible run for the White House in 2012, according to reports released by ABC News and Politico on Monday.

Speculation began to swirl that Huntsman could mount a presidential campaign earlier this month. Last week, the Washington Post reported:

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R) appears to be leaning toward a run for president in 2012 and a team of political operatives and fundraisers have begun informal talks and outreach to ensure he could rapidly ramp up if he decides to run.

Politico reports that according to top Democrats, the White House is aware of plans for a possible presidential campaign in the works. According to ABC News, the former governor of Utah is anticipated to announce his departure from the White House in coming months.

At a recent news conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama made light of the unusual situation that his own appointee could run against him.

"I'm sure the fact that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary," joked the president.

According to Politico, at an off-the-record dinner over the weekend, Bill Daley, who Obama appointed to replace Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff earlier this month, addressed the possibility of a Huntsman run in a similar manner.

"It's also good to see Jon Huntsman, our ambassador to China," Daley said, according to a source in the room. "Or as we call him around the White House: the Manchurian Candidate. I want Jon to know that the president has no hard feelings. In fact, he just did an interview with the Tea Party Express saying how integral he has been to the success of the Obama administration."

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."

The Washington Post notes, however, that Huntsman, like other potential Republican presidential contenders, would bring political baggage with him to a campaign.

Jon Huntsman: His serving in the Obama administration - albeit as the ambassador to China - won't go down well with many Republican primary voters who detest the current occupant of the White House. And Huntsman's public endorsement of cap-and-trade legislation puts him out of step with most in his party.

Newsweek reported earlier this month:

The cable-news crowd will undoubtedly scoff at Huntsman's prospects in a Republican primary. After a right-wing resurgence flooded Congress with Tea Party Republicans, the field doesn't appear particularly inviting to a moderate Obama appointee. But an increasingly vocal segment of the GOP is worried that the conservative populism of 2010 is distracting the party from its more pressing priorities. "We may be confusing a clearing in the forest for being out of the woods," says Republican strategist John Weaver, who notes young voters' disapproval of some of the party's social agenda. "There is a ticking demographic time bomb working against us, and if we don't correct that problem very soon, we could wind up back where we were four years ago." What the party needs now, argue supporters like Weaver, is a leader who can negotiate a treaty of sorts between the right-wing base and forward-thinking moderates. The GOP, in other words, needs an ambassador.

UPDATE 5:33 p.m. ET:

Politico reports that Huntsman has submitted a letter of resignation to the president, according to a close associate familiar with the matter:

In a letter hand-delivered to the White House, the former Utah governor said that he wants to return to the United States by May, the associate said. The letter thanks Obama for the opportunity to serve the country and praises the U.S. embassy staff in Beijing.