Jon Huntsman, President Obama’s outgoing ambassador to China, is considering running against his boss in 2012 as a Republican.
But two handwritten letters from Huntsman obtained by The Daily Caller raise the question of why he’s not campaigning for Obama instead.
“You are a remarkable leader,” Huntsman wrote to Obama in an Aug. 16, 2009 note, underlining the word “remarkable,” “and it has been a great honor getting to know you.”
The letter thanks Obama for “the graciousness and kindness you have shown me and my family – particularly your confidence in my ability to represent you in China.” Huntsman said he was “leaving behind a state we love – but anticipating an extraordinary experience in Beijing.”
In an Aug. 10, 2009 letter to former President Bill Clinton, Huntsman was similarly effusive.
“I have enormous regard for your experience, sense of history and brilliant analysis of world events. Please save some time for me when I’m next in New York,” Huntsman said.
In that same letter, Huntsman, who plans to leave his post in Beijing April 30, had kind words for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well.
“I must report that Sec. Clinton has won the hearts and minds of the State Dept. bureaucracy — no easy task. And after watching her in action, I can see why. She is well-read, hard working, personable and has even more charisma than her husband! It’s an honor to work with her,” Huntsman wrote.
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.
Obama’s political advisers have been detailing these same pitfalls to top Democratic donors in closed-door meetings, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.
Reached for comment about the letters, a political strategist who supports Huntsman tried to pin their release on the Obama White House.
“Need further proof that the White House fears Jon Huntsman? I think not,” the source said.
The person who sent the letters to TheDC did so on the condition their identity not be disclosed.