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There are a number of theories as to why President Obama is sending Governor Huntsman to China. They're all interesting, but only one holds any real water.
Theory 1: "The President is sending Governor Huntsman to China because he is a potential 2012 threat to re- election."
Response: It's impossible to know how serious Governor Huntsman was about running for President, and we'll never know whether the President actually lost any sleep over the prospect. Plus, the Governor's support of Civil Unions is still a couple of years away from reflecting the majority opionon of the Republican Party.
Theory 2: "The President chose Governor Huntsman because the Governor is the best man for the job"
Response: No one can dispute that Governor Huntsman is qualified to be Ambassador to China, but the United States has a symbiotic relationship with China that has produced great experts at every level from business and trade to diplomacy and government relations.
Theory 3: "The President chose Governor Huntsman because he is a Republican that can do the job."
Response: BINGO. The President promised to appoint Republicans to his administration. I think this was one place where President Obama could safely appoint a qualified Republican. President Obama has been quick to let everyone know he's appointing a Republican to an important position, and uses such opportunities to imagine himself transcending party politics, if only for five minutes.