Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China, sent a resignation letter to President Barack Obama on Monday and now is likely to explore a Republican presidential bid, a close associate told POLITICO.
In a letter hand-delivered to the White House, the former Utah governor said that he wants to return to the United States by May, the associate said. The letter thanks Obama for the opportunity to serve the country and praises the U.S. embassy staff in Beijing.
If Huntsman won the GOP nomination, he would be challenging the reelection of his former boss. White House officials are furious at what they consider an audacious betrayal, but know that any public criticism would be likely to benefit Huntsman if he enters the primaries.
Huntsman, 50, resigned his governorship in 2009 after Obama named him to the Beijing post. The move was seen as a coup by Obama’s political team, neutralizing a potential opponent.
He may form an exploratory committee this spring, with a final decision expected by summer. Allies have begun building the nucleus of a potential campaign.
There is, of course, no hard evidence that Huntsman will run, but there has been a lot of speculation in recent days that he’ll do just that. I certainly hope he does, as a Huntsman candidacy will further split the squishy moderate vote that’s crucial for the Mittens if he is to have any chance at the Republican nomination in 2012. Look for a lot of establishment love for Huntsman during the next several days as he effectively becomes their latest "Mitch Daniels". This, combined with the dismal preformance by Romney’s federal PAC, and one has to conclude that today was not a good day for Team Mitt.
Update: More from Allahpundit here.