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Huntsman's ambassadorship in China ends Saturday

Published: Thursday, April 28 2011 10:00 p.m. MDT

Should that include a run for the White House, a group has already formed to support a Huntsman bid, lead by John Weaver, a former key advisor to 2008 GOP presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Teams are already in place in key primary states, including New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Florida.

Huntsman, who was toying with a presidential run before being chosen as ambassador in 2009, is already set to give commencement speeches at universities in New Hampshire and South Carolina. 

Like Huntsman, a slew of potential candidates are also eyeing the political landscape and each other and weighing not just whether to get in, but when.

In a potentially wide field of GOP contenders, his time in China will stand out, according to Lew Cramer, who served both the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

“He’s a diplomat,” Cramer explained. “He knows how to work with people. He has worldview that very few of the other candidates can match.”            

Huntsman is also well versed in international relations and trade, former assistant U.S. trade representative Tim Stratford said.

"I think it's been a great experience for him,” Stratford said, “and he's done the job well."

If he jumps in, likely vying for the nomination along with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, it will put many with links to both in a bind.

Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts was once in consideration for the job of 2002 Olympic chief along with both men, a job Romney ultimately won. He said he'll keep his preferences to himself.

"I think it will a great story nationally,” Checketts said. “Both these guys have similar backgrounds. They're both connected to Utah. They're both extraordinary leaders. And either one of them would make a great president, and we'll all make our choices accordingly."

If he gets in, Huntsman's chances will depend on which other candidates run and what issues emerge as key.                                

"People use the analogy of a surfer,” explained Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics. “You have to be a great surfer to win, but you also have to catch the right wave. His wave is going to be foreign policy. Romney's is going to be the economy. If one of those is cresting at the right time, who knows what will happen."

Contributing: Viviane Vo-duc, Lisa Riley Roche

E-mail: jdaley@desnews.com

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