Rumors are once again swirling around a potential 2012 presidential bid by Utah's former Republican governor, Jon Huntsman, but some key supporters say the speculation is just that.
Huntsman drew attention as a potential White House contender after the 2008 presidential election by visiting key states and mulling his own political action committee. All that seemed to fade, however, when President Obama appointed his potential 2012 rival as ambassador to China in August 2009.
The rumor mill is revving up again because:
- Huntsman, who remains Obama's envoy in Beijing, has bought a new $3.6 million house in Washington, D.C., and,
- A group of supporters has organized a political action committee with the potential to raise money for a presidential run in either 2012 or 2016.
GOP strategist John Weaver, a former top strategist to the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., helped organize the PAC. Although board members include many well-known Huntsman backers, Weaver insisted that Huntsman had nothing to do with the creation of the PAC and that its goals are to elect GOP candidates, not necessarily to advance the ex-governor's political career.
The committee, named R-PAC, has only been organized in Utah and has not yet begun to raise money, Weaver said. The fact that it is led by Huntsman supporters is incidental, he insisted.
That hasn’t dampened speculation that Huntsman may be looking to return soon and position himself for a shot at a national office.
Arguing against a Huntsman run in 2012: the ingratitude factor -- it would be awkward to run against Obama, who crossed party lines to make Huntsman an ambassador -- and the Romney factor.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and is gearing up to do so again in 2012, likely will draw on some of the same political contributors and talent who otherwise might back a Huntsman presidential bid. Both Romney and Huntsman are Mormons and both governed as centrist Republicans.
All of that suggests Huntsman may be better off biding his time.
“I definitely see a bright future for Huntsman in U.S. politics but that future doesn’t start in 2012,” Weaver said.