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Obama Praises Jon Huntsman, Jokes about Possible 2012 Rivalry

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama looks on as China's President Hu Jintao speaks during their joint news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

President Obama couldn't help but smile today at the prospect that his ambassador to China, Utah's former Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman, may run against him in the 2012 presidential election.

At a press conference today with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Mr. Obama praised Huntsman for his success as a U.S. representative abroad -- and then promptly noted that such praise would most likely work against Huntsman in the Republican primaries.

Huntsman has done an "outstanding job" as ambassador, bringing "enormous skill, dedication and talent" to the job, Mr. Obama said today.

"The fact that he comes from a different party I think is a strength, not a weakness," the president continued. "It indicates the degree to which both he and I believe that partisanship ends at the water's edge, and that we work together to advocate on behalf of our country."

Continuing to pour on the praise, Mr. Obama said he "couldn't be happier" with Huntsman's service, adding, "I'm sure he will be very successful in whatever endeavors he chooses in the future."

The president's remarks elicited laughter from an audience aware of reports that Huntsman has met with political advisers to consider a presidential bid. Huntsman, a moderate Republican, has for some time been considered a possible 2012 contender, and some speculated Mr. Obama appointed him as ambassador in 2009 in part to remove a potential political rival.

Mr. Obama joked today, "I'm sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary."

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