Does Huntsman’s Road Through Beijing Lead To The Obama White House?

When President Barack Obama rang up Utah’s moderate Republican Governor Jon Huntsman a while back to feel him out about joining a Democratic administration, insiders say the first question out of his mouth went something like this: “So, are you going to run against me in 2012?”

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” the popular, attractive and well-heeled governor demurred skillfully before accepting the call to serve as the President’s main man in Beijing (Huntsman speaks fluent Mandarin as a result of his two year Mormon missionary experience in Taiwan) and, in so doing, becoming the icon of The Team of Rivals President Obama is assembling in Washington

Clearly, the President was already mapping his plan for 2012 even if governor cum ambassador was not. Question is: will Huntsman’s adroit deflection go down as one of the more disingenuous in recent memory?

Ever since the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee chose Mitt Romney over Huntsman(despite intensive lobbying from his wealthy and powerful namesake father) to revive the then foundering 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Junior has been eyeing the big prize and, not so incidentally, Romney too: witness his the snub he directed Mitt’s way by endorsing John McCain in 2008.

With recent polls showing Romney now leading the pack of Republican prospects and, gasp, running neck-and-neck with Obama, Machiavellian speculators on both sides of see the possibilities for an even tighter Obama-Huntsman alliance come 2012, and, possibly, a more public revival of the Romney-Huntsman contretemps.

The assumptions for this marriage of potential rivals include:

1. Polls continue to show Romney even-up with Obama and the leading Republican contender, despite spiteful and short-sighted opposition from radical elements of the Christian Right

2. Vice President Biden continues to feast on his foot. Both of them. Simultaneously.

3. China’a rise as an important world power and trading partner remains steady as she goes

4. Obama’s economic and healthcare programs undercuts his appeal to middleclass swing voters.

One possible result: Round about late 2010, Vice President Biden abruptly decides he needs to spend more time with his family. Obama summons Huntsman to Washington. Question is: would Huntsman switch parties or serve out the term as a Republican, and, with Obama, form the nation’s first bipartisan “Team of Rivals” running mates in 2012?

The predictable bad-mouthing has already begun in out West. Grumbles one Utahan: “Good to see that Huntsman has finally come out of the closet. Everyone around here always knew he was just another buff RINO (Republican In Name Only) who looks cool in Harley leathers.”

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