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Jon Huntsman Jr. hobnobs at Washington dinner

Published: Saturday, April 30 2011 10:34 p.m. MDT

Jon Huntsman Jr.

Bob Brown, KSL

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WASHINGTON, D.C. —Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr., whose time in that post officially ended at midnight Saturday, attended the White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington, D.C., on Saturday evening, with his wife Mary Kaye.

On his way into the star-studded, black-tie event, Huntsman, who is mulling a presidential bid, gave few clues about his future plans.

"We have a little thinking to do and a little planning," said the former Utah governor. "And some logistical work ahead. We look forward to that."

The Huntsmans and their younger children flew back from Beijing on Friday.

They said they'll probably live between Washington and Utah — and that they're glad to be home.

"It's kind of surreal right now, just being back, most importantly being back on American soil," said Mary Kaye Huntsman. "Feeling euphoric, being back in the country we love so much."

Asked about the first thing they did when they got home, they said they got some food at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

"There isn't a greater act of Americana than getting a cheeseburger when you get back on American soil," said Huntsman.

At the event were plenty of Washington journalists, Hollywood stars and other recognizable faces such as Colin Powell and Donald Trump, who gave a peace sign to the hoots of anti-war protesters gathered outside the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Huntsman said he wouldn't be surprised to get a mention from his soon-to-be-ex-boss at an event famous for good-natured, bipartisan ribbing.

He did.

During his remarks, President Barack Obama called out Huntsman, a potential candidate to replace him.

"My buddy, our outstanding Ambassador Jon Huntsman, is with us," said Obama. "Now there's something you might not know about Jon. He didn't learn to speak Chinese to go there. Oh, no. He learned English to come here."

The president then also made a couple of cracks at former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who got a heavy dose of humor from Saturday Night Live comedian Seth Meyers.

Political observers expect the GOP field to much more fully take shape over the next couple of months — with a number of candidates, including Romney, expected to officially get in.

Though the dinner was once described as a "nerd prom," its crowd of 3,000 included some of the players who could be key to Huntsman's future.

"This is a chance to see an awful lot of people that he needs to know in national politics in one place at one time," said Jonathan Alter, an MSNBC analyst who noted a big hurdle for Huntsman is name recognition.

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