GOOD FOR HUNTSMAN, BUT NO ONE KNOWS HOW 2012 WILL SHAKE OUT.

Since I'm on semi-vacation in New Hampshire, I've more-or-less missed the ever-shrinking Blogger Commentary Time Window (BCTW) on Utah Governor Jon Huntsman's nomination as the United States Ambassador to China.

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Short version: Smart for Obama, good for Huntsman, bad for the GOP, but can a Republican faithfully represent a Democrat's foreign policy in this political climate and does this suggest that the U.S.-China relationship will continue to hew the standard establishment line? Bonus discussion question: Is that a bad thing?

Anyway, I did want to draw attention to this commentary by Christian Brose, which does a good job of laying out what Huntsman's probable assumptions are about his political future and that of his party. But readers, remember: No one has any idea how the politics of 2012 will shake out, and any political calculation based on current assumptions is just a mistake. Looking at Brose's conventional wisdom handicapping of the 2012 GOP, I don't see much to disagree with, but now we have to get into Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns territory. Remember when everyone thought George Allen was a front-runner for the 2008 GOP nomination? Hillary Clinton for the Democrats? The permanent Republican majority of 2004? The never-ending Democratic majority in Congress for most of the latter half of the prior century? You get my point. Whatever Huntsman's calculus is, I hope it isn't entirely predicated on the political climate three years from now.

On that note, I also wouldn't assume that a politician's every motivation has to do with becoming president someday, or even moving up to whatever the next notch on the ladder is (although it's not an unsafe assumption, either). North Carolina's Roy Barnes isn't running for Richard Burr's Senate seat despite a good chance he could take it, and New Hampshire's John Lynch won't run for a Senate seat that is practically a given for him. It's certainly possible that Huntsman, who has long experience in Asia and an obvious fascination with Chinese language and culture, might just covet the most important diplomatic post in the region.

-- Tim Fernholz

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