Handwritten letters by Jon Huntsman, the outgoing ambassador to China and a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, seem to show a unique admiration for President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
The letters, obtained by The Daily Caller, contain phrases like “you are a remarkable leader” (to Obama while serving as ambassador) and “I have enormous regard for your experience, sense of history and brilliant analysis” (to Clinton on Huntsman’s final day as governor of Utah).
The letters highlight two key political vulnerabilities of Huntsman in a Republican primary.
First, he spent the last year and a half working for the president he would be running against, and his aides began preparing his campaign while he was still representing the U.S. in Beijing, one of the most important overseas posts.
Second, Huntsman, who made his name as a moderate governor of Utah, pushing the GOP to the left on the environment, may be too liberal for the Republican primary electorate. His deep admiration for the president, a “brilliant” former Democratic president, and a key member of the administration could compound his vulnerability on those issues.
When The Daily Caller reporter Jonathan Strong asked a Huntsman political strategist about the letters, the situation was described as “further proof that the White House fears Jon Huntsman.”
California-native Huntsman has served as U.S. Ambassador to China under the Obama administration. His resignation of that post becomes effective on April 30, when many believe he will announce his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Prior to serving as an ambassador, he was the 16th governor of Utah, holding the office from 2005 until his resignation in August 2009 (to take the ambassador post).
Huntsman has also served as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore under the George H.W. Bush administration, and spent time in Taiwan as a Mormon missionary in his younger years. He was a White House staff assistant during the Reagan administration, and a deputy U.S. trade representative during the George W. Bush administration.