Jon Huntsman is preparing to run for president in 2012, but he has a potential problem with Republican voters: He joined the enemy camp when he became President Obama's ambassador to China. To win the nomination, Huntsman will have to distance himself from the president, and that won't be easy--especially now that The Daily Caller's Jonathan Strong got his hands on a trove of what it calls Huntsman's "love letters" to Obama.
In August 2009, Huntsman wrote to the president, "You are a remarkable leader"--underlining "remarkable" for emphasis. He added, "it has been a great honor getting to know you." Huntsman's letter to Bill Clinton--mentioning Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was equally gushy:
"I have enormous regard for your experience, sense of history and brilliant analysis of world events. Please save some time for me when I’m next in New York. ... I must report that Sec. Clinton has won the hearts and minds of the State Dept. bureaucracy--no easy task. And after watching her in action, I can see why. She is well-read, hard working, personable and has even more charisma than her husband! It’s an honor to work with her."
Huntsman will step down from his diplomatic post at the end of this month. The former Utah governor has already assembled a team to lay the groundwork for a run. But given his role as ambassador, Huntsman can't easily attack Obama. In February, he was spotted by a pro-democracy in China, and earlier this month, he sharply criticized the Chinese government for its record on human rights. He's also benefitted from the good press that comes with releasing a killer iPod playlist and getting photographed on a Harley.
This looks a little like the campaign strategy the National Review's Jim Geraghty imagined for Huntsman in March. Geraghty argued Huntsman could give a speech at some centrist Washington think tank, and after "hitting the predictable notes," he could got after Obama on foreign policy--painting the administration as "flailing, frozen with indecision, short-sighted, often at war with itself, disorganized, and ultimately lacking any sense of what it wanted to do after Obama had finished his apology tour."
It sounds plausible. But the critique might sound less plausible to voters when the inevitable attack ad contrasts attacks on Obama with Huntsman's own gooey love letters.