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SALT LAKE CITY -- As expected, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as U.S. ambassador to China Friday. In a new Dan Jones poll for KSL-TV and the Deseret News, most Utahns say they approve both of his decision to take the job and of the job he's done.
At his confirmation hearing, Huntsman showed off his political skills: knowledge and credibility.
"It's in everyone's interests in the world to ensure that we have a good, stable, positive, comprehensive, bi-lateral relationship," Huntsman told the Senate panel on July 23.
He was approachable and affable when mobbed by Chinese reporters who wanted to know about his daughter, who was adopted from China, and to hear him speak his second language.
In a KSL-TV/Deseret News poll of 400 people, an overwhelming 87 percent of Utahns say they approve of Huntsman's decision to leave office and become ambassador.
As part of the same poll, 86 percent of Utahns say they approve of Huntsman's job performance, while 8 percent disapprove. And 75 percent think Huntsman made Utah a better place, while 6 percent say he made it worse and 15 percent say he had no impact.
"I've really liked the work he's done. I was excited, wanted him to be governor again. But I was more excited when they asked him to be in charge of China, because I know he'll be really good at it," said Salt Lake City resident Debbie Wood.
Kaysville resident Justin Henriksen told us, "I think he's done a great job for Utah, and I imagine he'll do a great job there too."
Still, some staunch conservatives were irked by Huntsman's support for civil unions and his joining the western states' fight against global warming.
"For instance, if Huntsman were to come back and were able to run again, and chose to run again, he would get killed in convention," said Paul Mero, president of the conservative group The Sutherland Institute.
But most Utahns--by a 63 percent to 19 percent margin--say if he returned after his Chinese assignment, they'd vote for him again.
"Not that he wasn't a great politician, but I think he considered himself a statesman first. And the polls showed that the state saw him the same way," said Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
In a statement, Gov Huntsman said: "This is an important time in our nation's relationship with China. I appreciate the confidence of the Senate and the president to represent our country. Serving the people of Utah has been our family's greatest honor. I thank the citizens for their continued support."
Huntsman is expected to speak at Tuesday's inauguration for Gary Herbert. Then he and his wife, Mary Kaye, and their two youngest children are expected to leave for Beijing within the next week.