In a surprise move designed to bolster his bipartisan credentials, President Barack Obama has tapped Utah’s Republican Governor John Huntsman to serve as his administration’s ambassador to China.
The move is being hailed by cynics as a smart ploy by the president to remove one potential opponent to his re-election prospects in 2012.
Obama’s 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe hinted earlier this month that they viewed Huntsman as a potentially dangerous foe. Plouffe told US News and World Report that 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.”
But how close was Huntsman really to running for the Republican nomination? So close he had planned his first trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire in June to speak before the New Hampshire Senate, State House sources tell NowHampshire.com.
Huntsman and his team had even been in contact with a prominent political consultant who resides in New Hampshire to help him schedule a full sweep through the state during the trip.
Huntsman has since cancelled the speech, the tour of the state and the trip altogether.
“It’s very disappointing,” one Republican state Senator tells NowHampshire.com. “We were rolling out the red carpet for the guy and then he just bailed on us.”
Huntsman has been to New Hampshire many times as a surrogate for Sen. John McCain during the 2008 campaign cycle.