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PPresident Barack Obama reached across the political divide Saturday and named Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a possible GOP White House contender and top John McCain supporter, to the sensitive diplomatic post of U.S. ambassador to China.
With the selection, Obama may have sidelined a potentially formidable moderate Republican from the 2012 presidential field. For Huntsman, it's a chance to burnish his credentials and position himself as a viable hopeful _ perhaps for 2016 if Obama is seen as a strong candidate for a second term in 2012.
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, the 49-year-old Huntsman is a popular two-term governor who served in both Bush administrations and was national co-chairman of Arizona Sen. McCain's campaign against Obama last year.
Huntsman said he never expected "to be called into action by the person who beat us. But I grew up understanding that the most basic responsibility one has is service to country. When the president of the United States asks you to step up and serve in a capacity like this, that to me is the end of the conversation and the beginning of the obligation to rise to the challenge.