SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is being considered for deputy secretary of state, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Huntsman, along with 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, was on President Donald Trump's shortlist for the top diplomatic post that ultimately went to former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
Now, according to unnamed U.S. officials cited by the newspaper, Huntsman is up for the No. 2 spot at the State Department after Trump turned down Elliott Abrams for the post, apparently because he was critical of the president during the campaign.
Huntsman, who stepped down during his second term as governor to serve as U.S. ambassador to China under then-President Barack Obama, is also under consideration for an ambassadorship, an official told the Wall Street Journal.
In December, there were reports that Trump was looking at Huntsman as a possible ambassador to Japan, a key U.S. ally, because of his familiarity with the region. He has also been U.S. ambassador to Singapore and a trade ambassador to Asia.
Huntsman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A GOP presidential candidate in 2012, Huntsman had endorsed Trump for president but later called for him to drop out of the race after a tape surfaced last fall of Trump talking in graphic terms about making sexual advances on women.
Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, says any president "would be lucky to have Jon Huntsman" as part of his or her administration.
"He brings instant credibility to any administration. His international experience is well-known and proven, and if there is any truth to these rumors, he would be an exceptional pick," Perry said.
He noted Huntsman has served both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Huntsman has "proven his loyalty to our country transcends party by serving Obama and even potentially in the Trump administration," Perry said.
He also "cares about his country," Perry said, which is "why he may be willing to take this appointment if it's offered."
Last month, Huntsman told the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards that he didn't have a position in the Trump administration and didn't want one.
"But if asked, I would salute," he said then.
Huntsman has expressed interest in running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, but he has said he's not ready to decide until Hatch announces whether he will seek an eighth term in 2018.