Some of Huntsman's supporters, including Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller, put together a political action committee last August ostensibly to support like-minded candidates. The R-PAC, since renamed the New Horizon PAC, amounted to an effort to draft Huntsman to run for president.
Among Huntsman's key backers is John Weaver, a top strategist for the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Huntsman endorsed McCain and played a role in his race, bucking the many Utah Republicans who wanted Romney to win.
Romney's supporters in Utah include Jowers and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who had been Huntsman's lieutenant governor. Herbert's office announced Monday that he is leading a trade mission to China, April 11-15.
Herbert's spokeswoman, Ally Isom, said "the governor has always supported Mitt Romney in the past. We have heard nothing official about Jon Huntsman's candidacy and it's too early to speculate."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, issued a statement commending Huntsman for his service as ambassador. “I am confident he will continue to bring solid leadership, expertise and total dedication to the job until he leaves the position, and I wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” Hatch said.
Utah lawmakers, who sometimes found themselves at odds with Huntsman over his less-conservative positions, weren't particularly enthusiastic about the prospects of their former chief executive running for president.
“Whoopee,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said.
Last year, Huntsman purchased a $3.6 million home in Washington, D.C. Politico has reported he met recently in Washington with McCain about a potential run.
One of Huntsman's close friends in Utah, Bud Scruggs, president of Huntsman Financial Corp., said they talked in December about his future.
"When I was talking to him in December, he was talking about midsummer," Scruggs told the Deseret News.
He said his conversation with Huntsman did not focus at that time on a GOP presidential bid.
"He talked about making decisions generally. It wasn't like he said, 'I'm going to make a decision about running for president.'''
Scruggs, who served past Republican governors in key roles, said he has not been asked to help in any presidential run but would be happy to do so.
"I'm just a huge fan, and he's a very good friend," Scruggs said. "What he made clear to me is he was going to focus on being a good ambassador and I think that's what he's been doing."
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