My bet: Huntsman resigns his post in the summer, frees himself up to campaign for GOP candidates in the fall, then forms an exploratory committee by year's end. He'll start out behind, and he'll have to deal with the baggage of being tied to Obama. But Huntsman, who worked in the Reagan White House and helped lead his family's global chemical company, brings a lot of comparative advantages to the table. He hails from a pivotal electoral region for the GOP; he is far more engaging and genuine than the flat Pawlenty and the flip-flopping Romney; and he can match if not beat Romney on economic policy credibility without his fellow Mormon's corporate-raiding baggage, which will be an issue in the post-bailout era. So expect him to at least be in the (ahem) hunt.
The Huntsman Returns: Most 2012 presidential bird-dogging will focus on the two top establishment candidates (Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney) and the rogue regime in waiting (Sarah Palin). But don't count out the popular former Utah governor Jon Huntsman yet. Team Obama may have thought they were taking a formidable rival off the board by picking the broadly appealing, Mandarin-speaking Huntsman to be their ambassador to China. And Huntsman may have calculated Obama was probably not beatable in 2012 when he accepted the job early this year. But circumstances have changed just a bit now that Obama's approval ratings have dipped below 50%.
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