President Barack Obama named Republican Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. as his pick for ambassador to China, likely removing one of his strongest potential challengers in the 2012 presidential campaign from the running.This is definitely an interesting pick from the White House, one that could be pretty smart if it eliminates one of the more electable potential GOP challengers in 2012 (if he could have won the nomination, that is).
In an unusual Saturday announcement broadcast live on some cable networks, Obama acknowledged that Huntsman’s decision might not be easy for him to explain to the Republican Party.
And Huntsman said he, as a former national co-chairman for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, never expected “to be called into action by the person who beat us,” but added that "When the president of the United States asks you step up and serve in a capacity like this, that to me is the end of the conversation and the beginning of the obligation to rise to the challenge."
The move is freighted with political intrigue. Huntsman, who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, quickly emerged after November as one of the leading moderate GOP voices.
Huntsman is often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, although some of his advisers think the party's primary voters will be more prepared to accept his moderate views in 2016 if the party suffers a 1964-like cataclysm at the polls in 2012.
While conservative on social issues, Huntsman takes more centrist positions on the environment and gay rights. He shocked the Republican Party last year by announcing support for civil unions. He supported a regional cap-and-trade effort to reduce global warming, and has called on his party not to reject science showing that climate change is real.
In contrast to other Republican governors, he accepted his state’s allotment from the economic stimulus package – and, in fact, said in a February interview with POLITICO that $787 billion wasn’t large enough.
He was also critical of the Republican leadership in Congress, saying “we will be irrelevant as a party until we become the part of solutions and until we become the party or preeminence.”
The choice helps Obama burnish his bipartisan credentials as his efforts to work across party lines in Congress continue to run into trouble....
Hunstman will be replaced in Utah by Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert until a special election in 2010.
Saturday, May 16, 2009