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What can we make of the recent call by former Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr., and his father, Jon Sr., for GOP nominee Mitt Romney to release his tax returns? And what of Jon Jr.'s conspicuous absence at the party's national convention in Tampa that featured Romney as its star?

These the latest components in a long and dubious rivalry between the scions of prominent Mormon families whose divergent political paths keep crossing in sometimes volatile ways. And, for the moment at least, Romney has come out on top.

The Huntsmans ended up endorsing Romney after Jon Jr. dropped out of the race when it became apparent he had no chance of snagging the nomination. But the Huntsman-Romney history belies any notion that the two will ever have a warm, fuzzy, mutually supportive relationship.

If Romney is elected president in the fall, it will be interesting to see if there is a place in his administration for the junior Huntsman, whose wide diplomatic experience, including as ambassador to China, make his foreign policy credentials about as impressive as anyone seen as potential foreign policy players on the Romney team.

Huntsman has been critical of the Republican Party since he left the race, deploring its extremism and the divisive tone of its rhetoric. At least that was the reason he gave for snubbing the convention. But the ongoing feud with Romney makes it easy to speculate that he preferred skipping the Romney parade.

Romney, after his unsuccessful run to unseat Democratic icon Ted Kennedy from the Senate in 1994, parlayed his role as leader and self-described savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City into national prominence that led to his election as governor of Massachusetts and now as the Republican Party's nominee for the White House.

But it could have been different. How might it have turned out if Huntsman, not Romney, had been chosen to take over the 2002 Winter Olympics in the midst of the scandal that threatened to undermine any chance of success?

Huntsman was asked to apply for the job. His credentials then were nothing to scoff at. He had extensive international business experience in his father's global chemical manufacturing empire, was ambassador to Singapore in George H.W. Bush administration and later was appointed as deputy U.S. trade representative.

When the announcement was made that the job would go to Romney — then-Gov. Mike Leavitt was deeply involved in the selection — Jon Huntsman Sr. was livid. He publicly criticized the process and said the powers in Utah, including Leavitt, had only asked his son to apply to make it look like an honest search when, in fact, the job was Romney's all along.

Leavitt is advising Romney on the transition that would follow a Romney victory, and rumors say Leavitt would have a place in a new administration.

But what if Huntsman had gotten the Olympics job? Would Romney have won the governorship in Massachusetts? What spotlight would have been shown on Huntsman, and how would he have exploited that?

When Romney ran for president in 2008 and Huntsman was governor of Utah, he went against the grain of most Republicans in his state and endorsed eventual nominee John McCain. I have been told by sources close to both camps that Huntsman's endorsement triggered a call from Romney, who purportedly used one of those naughty names that Romney claims never to utter.

Then there's Russia.

Romney has returned to the Cold War demonizing of Russia and labels it one of our potential mortal enemies of the future. Huntsman Sr., in contrast, had chemical plants in the old USSR and in 1991 helped set up meetings between the Soviet and LDS Çhurch leaders that led to acceptance of Mormon missionaries in that country.

Huntsman and Romney. They seem to have so much in common, but are so fundamentally different. —

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