With a reach across the political divide for Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, President Barack Obama may have sidelined for now a potentially formidable Republican moderate and possible White House challenger in 2012.
Yet Huntsman, who has upset the GOP's conservative base by supporting gay civil unions, may gain, too. The appointment, which requires Senate approval, gives him a chance to burnish his credentials and position himself as a viable presidential contender in 201state6, if Obama appears to be a strong candidate for a second term in 2012.
The beauty of this move is that it also makes perfect sense for Huntsman. As a Governor, the biggest deficiency he would face in any potential Presidential run would be his lack of foreign policy experience. By being appointed ambassador to China, he instantaneously removes that negative. While Huntsman is now no longer a candidate to run in 2012, he strengthens his candidacy in 2016 and beyond.
He also creates all sorts of other bonafides. He strengthens his moderate image. This will strengthen his appeal to both moderates and even liberals. While moderation is usually a negative in the primaries, his image is already that of a moderate. By doing this, he carves that space out all to himself. If he is to survive the primaries, this move will be a huge coup in the general election. In the end, both men win and ultimately it's a huge coup for Obama.