For 2012 Hopeful, Envoy Job in China Was a Useful Detour

Jon Huntsman is expected to announce his official candidacy for the U.S. 2012 Presidential Election on Tuesday, and the media is focusing on his recently-completed tour as Ambassador to China when introducing him to the American public. From the New York Times:

Mr. Obama’s decision to name Mr. Huntsman his ambassador to China in 2009 was hailed by members of both parties as another act of political wizardry, a chance to show that the president was trying to infuse his administration with a bipartisan spirit.

The president’s aides had by then identified Mr. Huntsman, a rising star of the Republican Party, as a potentially strong opponent in 2012. And Mr. Obama’s team basked in accolades among political strategists for taking Mr. Huntsman out of the mix and packing him off some 7,000 miles away.

Mr. Huntsman’s time in China has indeed created a potential roadblock for his campaign; Mr. Obama has teased him publicly about how his service in the administration will play among the Republican faithful.

But in some ways it has proved to be a help. It has bolstered his position as the only candidate in a field dominated by former governors to have direct foreign policy experience. And it put him in proximity to some of the nation’s leading chief executives — and potential campaign donors and fund-raisers — as they sought assistance in doing business with China.

See also: “Huntsman’s path to White House starts in China” from MSNBC.

A report from Bloomberg looks at expansion in China of his family’s company, Huntsman Corp, which could be a potential roadblock to his nomination:

Huntsman Corp.’s revenue in China surged 57 percent from 2009 to 2010 during his ambassadorship, almost two decades after its entrance there, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. Its expansion in the world’s second-largest economy offers a target for rivals when U.S. unemployment is shaping the 2012 presidential race.

“China has become a bigger and bigger issue in recent elections, especially exporting jobs to China,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist in Washington who isn’t working with any of the presidential campaigns. “If I were an opposition researcher, I would have a field day with this.”

Tepid job creation is poised to be the top issue in the campaign, with the economy struggling to gain strength amid 9.1 percent unemployment following the worst recession since the 1930s. Feehery said that environment could make recent comments by Huntsman’s chief executive officer problematic.

“We now employ more people between China and India than we do in North America, which is really quite phenomenal when you consider that about 90 percent of our associates 10 years ago were in North America,” CEO Peter Huntsman, 48, a younger brother of the potential candidate, told an industry conference on June 8.

Read more about Jon Huntsman via CDT.

June 19, 2011 10:43 PM
Posted By: