"***A-Huntsman we will go: Obama's nomination of Utah Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman to be ambassador to China seems to benefit two people: Obama and Huntsman. For Obama, it was yet another signal to independents and moderates that he's reaching across the aisle (Ray LaHood, Arlen Specter, and even the failed nomination of Judd Gregg are the other examples); it all but removed a potential 2012 challenger and an important moderate voice inside the GOP; and it showed that Obama's serious about China (Huntsman has sterling credentials -- he speaks Mandarin, did his Mormon mission in Taiwan, and served as George W. Bush's deputy U.S. trade representative). For Huntsman, the nomination gives him a job he obviously desired; it gets him out of the country at a time when his party is undergoing internecine warfare; and it possibly preps him for a presidential bid in 2016, bolstering his foreign affairs credentials. By the way, the cynical side of us is very impressed with how Obama has so cleverly tied up two of his biggest potential rivals in the future. First, he offered Hillary the plum job at the State Department, removing her as a potential obstacle from the Senate. Now he's taken Huntsman off the table for 2012."***Update***
I wanted to add the following quote from the LA Times this morning (5/20/09):
"Among the most upset over Huntsman's impending departure are Utah's embattled Democrats and their progressive allies who dread his replacement, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, a lawmaker about as different from the incumbent as two members of one party can be. How different? Huntsman may be the greenest Republican governor in the country, strongly advocating action to fight global warming. Herbert recently spoke at a forum hosted by the conservative Sutherland Institute which ... 'reinforced the message that global warming is not human-caused and that those who contend that it is are ignoring scientific evidence to the contrary.' David Magleby, a dean at Brigham Young University and one of Utah's most astute political observers, put it this way: 'This state will see, I think, a far more conservative agenda shared by both the governor and the Legislature than we've had in two decades. This is a sea change, not just a change from Huntsman. It's been a long time since we've had a governor as conservative as most people assume Gary Herbert will be."