Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to China, has told the Obama administration he plans to resign, an administration official said, a sign the former Utah governor may bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Obama has been informed that Huntsman intends to leave in May, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Huntsman, 50, a Republican, was in his second term as Utah governor when President Barack Obama nominated him to be ambassador on May 16, 2009. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and was ambassador to Singapore under former President George H.W. Bush.
Huntsman’s plan to resign was reported earlier by the Washington Post.
Before being named ambassador by Obama, Huntsman was the campaign co-chairman of the president’s opponent in the 2008 election, Republican Senator John McCain. Immediately after the election, he was cited as a potential contender for his party’s nomination in 2012.
When Chinese President Hu Jintao was in Washington on Jan. 19, Obama was asked about a potential challenge from Huntsman and joked that, “I’m sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary.”
He also had praise for Huntsman’s service as ambassador, saying it demonstrated that “he and I believe that partisanship ends at the water’s edge.”